Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much of the meaning in “Same Place, Same Things” is revealed in the central metaphor of the story: Pumps destroy themselves trying to draw water out of wells that are going dry because of the severe drought. The drought in the story is not only a physical case of there not being enough water available for farmers: As Ada makes clear to Harry, she feels that her life has gone dry and that she is burning herself out like an exhausted pump engine as she tries to dredge a life worth living from the dry soil of her married existence. Isolated, lonely, frustrated, and bitter, Ada reminds the reader initially of writer John Steinbeck’s farmwife protagonist Elisa Allen in his often-anthologized short story “The Chrysanthemums” (1938). Ada seems to feel that Harry, as a man who can fix pumps and wells gone dry, is in effect a rainmaker able to bring life-giving water to the parched earth. As such, he should be able to restore meaning and worth to her fruitless life as well. Again like Steinbeck’s Elisa, Ada seems interested in Harry only because he is a man who travels and goes places. At no point is there any indication that she is interested in whoever or whatever he might actually be as a man. After all, she meets him on the day of her husband’s death and within two days implies to him that she is interested in leaving with him.

When Ada visits Harry in the field and in the café, she brings him either food or drink each time, including sandwiches...

(The entire section is 464 words.)