Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The theme of the story is happiness. However, the concept of “happiness” as seen by Vera is subject to debate, challenge, and final qualification in the story. Vera announces her happiness very early in the story and defends it against all onslaughts until the ending. The challenge to define happiness by her daughters, especially Bea, does seem to provide a different perspective; they see happiness more realistically than Vera’s desperate struggle. In one scene, they see her swimming and are afraid she has gone too far to return to shore and may die. They notice that their mother’s happiness is something that is “dearly bought.” Happiness is, for Vera, a continual struggle rather than a state of being.

Above all, Vera’s happiness is rooted in this world. The daughters describe Father Hugh as being close to Vera to make sure of her salvation in the next world. He is less concerned with happiness in this world. She demands that the flowers not be given to the church because they would only end up on the altar; she claims that God made the flowers for people in this world rather than for himself or religious purposes. She seems to feel that she is a good Catholic, but her emphasis on this world is not traditionally Christian. In another episode, she brings daffodils to her dying husband but is rebuked by a nun at the hospital who tells her she should be praying for her husband rather than bringing him flowers. Vera rejects this point of view...

(The entire section is 441 words.)