Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Truman Capote was twenty-one years old when this rather lighthearted story was accepted by Story magazine. He quickly moved into a darker, more complex treatment of such materials, introducing the mysterious and sometimes the ominous into his southern gothic settings.

Even if she is actually a “half-wit,” there is nothing at all sinister about Olivia-Ann, as there is in the strange, feebleminded man in Capote’s “A Tree of Night.” Nor is the threat of violence a grim reality here, as it is in Capote’s later “experiment in realism,” In Cold Blood (1966). Capote is writing here more in the spirit of William Faulkner in his purely comic mode, found in such works as The Reivers (1962). Capote’s adversaries are so evenly matched in their human frailty that they seem to deserve one another.

The story really has no serious theme, though one might expect from the plot line at least the theme of initiation into the mysteries of adult life. The young husband is apparently as self-centered and ignorant at the end as he is at the beginning, however, and offers no indication of increased maturity. When he first comes to the country estate, he makes the pregnant Marge carry their luggage because he presumably has some “terrible trouble” with his back. Months later, when he is accused of laziness, he protests some vague “scurvy condition” to explain his idleness. At the end, he is concerned only with his...

(The entire section is 514 words.)