Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Morgan’s death sadly vindicates Pemberton’s observation that his pupil is “too clever to live.” Morgan is the most perceptive of the story’s characters, and that clear-sightedness produces both his charm and his undoing. His parents and siblings see and feel nothing and never show embarrassment. Even when their world crumbles about them at the end of the story, they feel no shame; they bear the death of Morgan like “men of the world.” In contrast, as soon as Morgan realizes that his parents are being evicted, he blushes “to the roots of his hair” at their “public exposure.”

For Morgan’s parents, life is surface and appearance. They are always “looking out,” which means that they are never introspective. Their only concern is to make a good show. Hence, they spend no money on Morgan’s clothes: He never appears in public. Their very name suggests this focus on the outside, for moreen is a coarse fabric with a smooth exterior.

Even Pemberton, supposedly Morgan’s tutor, proves himself less perceptive than his charge. When he is first hired, he fails to draw any conclusions from the fact that Mrs. Moreen says nothing about paying him, nor does he realize that her soiled gloves suggest the state of the Moreen family finances. When Morgan interrupts this first interview to say, “We don’t mind what anything costs—we live awfully well,” Pemberton does not understand that the Moreens care nothing for cost because...

(The entire section is 505 words.)