Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This is a story of evasiveness, the portrait of a man who wants to avoid the judgment of his own character and of his accomplishments in life. It is a story without a real climax because the Fraziers have settled into a flat, self-protective lifestyle, without significant action, purpose, or emotion. As the narrative moves forward, their present is replaced by recollected incidents, but these incidents are remarkable for their insignificance and inconclusiveness, and the Fraziers’ memory game is designed to free them from the emptiness of the present so that they can daydream of a glorious future.

In a sense, Peter breaks the rules of the memory game on this particular Sunday morning. He remembers Agnes Brusen, with whom he almost had an intimate relationship: “It is almost as if they had run away together, silly as children, irresponsible as lovers.” It is appropriate that they do not become lovers and do not “run away”; Peter does not even fantasize about what might have been. The emotional flatness of his temperament leads him to conclude with relief, “Anyway, nothing happened.”

However, the image of Agnes Brusen has become embedded in his memory. His half-conscious recognition of her significance to him is, perhaps, the climax of the story, although that recognition has such low voltage that Peter finds it easy to remind himself, “Sheilah is here, it is a true Sunday morning, with its dimness and headache and remorse and...

(The entire section is 439 words.)