Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Hazlitt is one in a long line of elderly or aging characters in Wright Morris’s fiction who feel somewhat displaced in the modern world. They encounter change, however, with more confusion than bitterness. Hazlitt, who does not fly very often, has the stewardess explain how to pull the dining tray from the seat in front of him and pry the lid from his salad dressing, but he recognizes such new—to him—things as inevitable, as is the change in the Fountain Court. Instead of experiencing nostalgia, Hazlitt simply makes connections between the present and the past, as when street sounds remind him of radio plays of the 1940’s. Still, things are not as they should be, as the bomb scare indicates. The porter at the Plaza explains that the bathroom faucets turn opposite the usual directions: “A sign of the times, Hazlitt thought.”

Other dilemmas facing the modern human are touched on in “Glimpse into Another Country.” Hazlitt has difficulty communicating with the Thayers on the plane and does not understand why he criticizes her reading the novel backward. When Dr. Thayer explains that, though “there is something in what you say,” his wife is free to read as she pleases, Hazlitt is nonplussed: “It was usually he who was the cool one, the voice of reason in the tempest, the low-keyed soother of the savage breast. Worse yet, this fellow was about half his age.” In the taxi from the airport, Hazlitt wants “to chat a bit with the driver,...

(The entire section is 484 words.)