(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Falls” moves back and forth between the third-person perspectives of two men—Morse, a self-doubting, apprehensive family man, and Aldo Cummings, a writer who feels sure the world will someday discover him and accord him the acclaim he feels he is due. Most of the story takes place in the minds of the men as they stroll along the Taganac River, until an event unfolds that snaps each of the men from his self-absorption.

The story opens with Morse walking home past the St. Jude Catholic school. The reader is quickly introduced to the state of Morse’s mental affairs as he deliberates over whether he should smile at the young girls playing in the St. Jude lawn and playground—and possibly be thought a pervert—or frown and be thought grouchy. Caught in this quandary, Morse tries to maintain an expression between friendliness and impassivity, while trying to always maintain what Morse sees as the most important characteristic a person can have: humility.

As Morse continues on toward his home, his internal speculations reveal more and more of his character. He lives in a small rental house with his wife, Ruth, and his son and daughter. As he worries about not being able to afford a piano for his son who is taking lessons (their piano having lately been repossessed), the reader senses that Morse is a man who feels he has failed on many levels. He has failed to gain financial and professional accomplishments, he has failed to be a successful breadwinner for his family, and he believes he has failed to be a good father and a good husband.

In contrast, Aldo Cummings, who snubs Morse when they pass each other, considers himself a starving artist. He spends each step of his walk constructing writerlike descriptions of the walk itself, even as his mind wanders further and further from the walk and into...

(The entire section is 751 words.)