Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A favorite character type of Frank O’Connor is the naïf, a figure unlettered in the ways of the world and always a step or two behind everyone else, who seems sophisticated and aware. Usually these characters are children, but Jerry Moynihan is an adult, probably in his twenties, who, as he understatedly admits, was not exactly knowledgeable about females. Because of his inexperience, Jerry is very much like a young person; he is shy, awkward, and tormented by his feelings for Kitty.

Not surprisingly, Jerry jumps to wild, comic extremes in his view of their relationship. He is especially prone to hyperbole, thinking that Kitty is above going to the cinema with him and hoping that she would be imperiled with drowning or slavery from which he could save her. These notions of chivalry are reminiscent of a boy who has read too many tales of King Arthur and the Round Table. When he fails to see her, he convinces himself that he has said something unpardonable that stems from a deep carnal impulse and that he is actually “a volcano of brutality and lust. ’Lust, lust, lust!’ I hissed to myself, clenching my fists.”

His reactions to his mother’s innocent questions also reveal exaggerated emotions. When she asks where he has been, he snaps that he has been out drinking and carousing, and then, when he tries to apologize, he begins to cry like a child. Emotionally and experientially, Jerry is a child, and his sense of guilt is disproportionately strong....

(The entire section is 605 words.)