Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The meaning in this story is not in what happens but in how it happens and to whom it happens. The revelation is of character, not plot. Insight is granted to the reader, not to the characters: Charley learns very little, if anything, about himself or about human nature; he and Lucy remain blissfully unaware of their prejudices, their narrowness, their sentimentality, and the banality of their lives. Although this story has been read as a condemnation of middle-class values and marriage, Ring Lardner does not totally condemn Charley and his “golden honeymoon.” The meaning of the story lies in the reader’s understanding of Charley; perhaps to understand all is indeed to forgive all. Certainly both Lardner and the reader see Charley clearly, much more clearly than he sees himself.