(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

From a detached and rather cool third-person point of view, the reader observes Joseph “Dopey” Carberry shamble into the dining room of his Uncle Mike’s and Aunt Anna’s home and sit down to eat, only to begin yet another Saturday night of bickering and blathering with his relatives. Dopey and his two sisters have been living with their aunt and her brother since their father remarried. He is harangued by all assembled for his shiftlessness. His Aunt Anna directs the abuse: “We’ve helped him, fed him, clothed him, waited on him, coddled him, tried to point the right way out to him, but it’s just not in his bones.”

Dopey hardly listens; he silently laments his lack of “two bucks to lay on Red Pepper after Len had come around the corner with that hot tip,” earlier in the day. He eventually offers some excuses and evasions for his lack of energy, and his aunt retorts, “Yes, I know what you want. A banker’s job from twelve to one, with an hour for lunch.” Given the brevity of the scene, there is more satire displayed than bathos, and the bigotry and corruption of their milieu are deftly sketched.

In the second scene (there are ten in all, matching the straightforward chronology of the evening), Uncle Mike counsels young Joe (who, after quitting high school, has had a number of jobs—one of which he describes as “a slave factory for dopes”—and a period of vagabondism) to change his ways, and Dopey tells him, “I’d like to go back to sea or else be a bookie.” Through a ruse, Dopey then manages to borrow five dollars from his uncle.

Phil Garrity arrives in the fourth scene, looking like a “Big Shot,” as Dopey’s sister Kate tells him. “Why, Phil, you’re all togged out like Joe College.” Phil has just made a large amount of money “legit,” playing the stock market with money from his La Salle Street job, and has just purchased a new used car, a Lincoln. He is attracted to Kate but has not gone out with her for six months. He and Kate banter about dating, but Phil is not able to extract a commitment from her. He and Dopey go out for a night on the town and, through scenes five and six, the third-person point of view severs its attachment from Dopey and secures itself to Phil, who thenceforth assumes the position of protagonist. James T. Farrell manages this switch rather smoothly because it coincides with a...

(The entire section is 975 words.)