Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Melanie Rae Thon writes about the difficulty of life for the unfortunate and the vulnerable. In her novel Iona Moon (1993), the protagonist, a teenage girl, leaves school to care of her dying mother, faces potential abuse from her brothers, and hitchhikes to escape her rural Idaho hometown. In Sweet Hearts (2000), a brother and sister, raised by their alcoholic mother, become involved in a series of violent acts. The same darkness is seen in “First, Body.” The title comes from emergency-room protocol: First, the body must be stabilized, the bleeding stopped and the heart beating, before the head can be examined.

The story is a critique of a society that allows people to fall through the cracks, a society that has throwaway people, not just the homeless but also Sid’s father, who was laid off because his superior determined that he was too old to collect tolls for the ferry. Thon suggests that because of the pervasive harshness in the world, people need to assist and comfort one another. The nurse in Sid’s room emphatically tells Sid that he is there if Sid should need him. Even though Sid’s desire to respect Gloria results in failure, Sid continues to insist on her humanity. After the accident, he, in an imagined conversation with his father, insists on stating her exact weight rather than the more generalized figure given by his father. Gloria was an individual, and the details matter. The interdependence between people is...

(The entire section is 444 words.)