Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Eating Naked,” Stephen Dobyns is describing a moment of crisis for a man who has become set in his ways. In some ways, Bob prefers being in a settled state. He looks back fondly on the first years of his marriage, when things went according to his expectations. Once his wife decided to assert herself and make the necessary moves toward becoming a teacher, however, his dissatisfaction grew.

At the same time, Bob reflects that their life together had never been easy. He also has moments when he dislikes who he is. One such moment arrives when he is driving with Laura beside him. In observing his reactions to her, he realizes he has become sick of himself. He sees how he is leading a life so predictable it has taken on the quality of a film script.

First Laura and then Chuckie help him in this self-awareness. Each in his or her turn responds to one of Bob’s pat assertions by asking him, “How come you know so much about it?” Their question has a sarcastic side, being addressed to this character who has a tendency to act all-knowing. It also has a straightforward aspect, however. Being younger, to some degree, they do want to know. In both cases, Bob replies, “I don’t. I’m just making talk.”

The crisis in Bob’s life, within the confines of the short story, is most strongly expressed through the first problem introduced in the story: the deer. Bob has hit it, an act that has damaged his truck. Laura then swerves...

(The entire section is 432 words.)