Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story maps out the narrator’s halfhearted attempts to get an imaginative grip on the city of Los Angeles. This process extends through a series of absurd encounters, whose matter-of-fact perversity seems to the narrator to embody the contradictions inherent in the city and the ultramodernity of which it is the perfect symbol.

Mary is an articulate and outspoken feminist who nevertheless wants to be tied up and then to have her demands for release ignored; she also does not want to analyze or discuss her impulses. Her hastily contrived relationship with the narrator, though casually sexual, contains no evident trace of affection or intimacy. George and Terence find it hard to relate to the narrator’s ironic observations, thus making them seem rather alien to him. George needs to think twice before realizing that his suggestion that the best English wheelchairs must be made by Rolls-Royce is a joke, and Terence cannot see any absurdity in a restaurant named the Doggie Diner even when the narrator carefully explains the meaning of the English colloquialism “dog’s dinner.”

Terence’s relationship with Sylvie and George’s relationship with his sons seem, in the cursory glimpses offered to the narrator and the reader, to be as devoid of any rewarding attachment as the narrator’s relationship with Mary.

When all four characters eventually come together, the culture clashes between George and Mary, George and Terence,...

(The entire section is 515 words.)