Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The most important theme in The Final Mist stems from the surrealist concept of reality. Going against the positivist postulate that views reality as a concrete and tangible phenomenon capable of being analyzed through reason and logic, this novel represents reality as a complex and fragmented conglomerate which the human mind is incapable of understanding. Objective reality is only one dimension of a wider microcosmos where the unconscious, the magic, and the oneiric simultaneously coexist. Thus, the only essence of reality is ambiguity. In The Final Mist ambiguity arises from two main phenomena observed in the text: the absence of specific objectivity regarding exterior reality and chronological time, and the elimination of exact and rational limits between oneiric experiences, daydreams, and concrete reality. Because the story is narrated from the protagonist’s point of view, the details of concrete reality are important only in terms of her agony and hidden wishes—thus the burning coals in the fireplace become a symbol of her lover’s eyes.

Time is measured also by her subjective perspective and in the context of the feminine experience of approaching old age, which represents a constant and everincreasing anxiety that the opportunity for love is inexorably receding beyond reach. On the other hand, the encounter with a man who makes love to her in a mysterious house is tinged with ambiguity, arising from the convergence of common details (such as cretonne curtains) as well as her lover’s supernatural qualities: his silence, the halo of light surrounding his body, his uncanny appearance—like an apparition in the wee hours of a misty night. The ellipsis of a clean...

(The entire section is 699 words.)