Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The primary theme of “Speck’s Idea” is the effect of World War II on European history. Even though the story takes place more than twenty-five years after the war’s end, its emphasis is on the fact that the war and its aftermath have left politics and views of history changed forever. The influence and ideas of fascism are present throughout the story and in the society within which Speck moves. Speck’s wife, leaving him, hurls the label “fascist” out the window of the taxi. Later on, Speck shouts “fascist” at Lydia Cruche from the window of a bus.

Speck ponders history; he desires to understand it. He reflects “there was right and right. . . . Nowadays the Paris intelligentsia drew new lines across the past, separating coarse collaborators from fine-drawn intellectual Fascists.” The Resistance is no longer chic. Speck himself is clearly seduced by the stability and respectability of conservatism. However, he is infinitely adaptable, regretting that his intellect tends to wander toward imagination, even metaphysics. Throughout the story, Speck changes his plans as needed. In fact, a remarkable aspect of the story is the opening premise that Speck is writing history to fit his own needs. He creates the artist’s biography, then he finds an artist who fits the needed profile. However, he does not expect to sign his program notes. Speck will write history, but he will let a conservative and safe politician take credit for his work....

(The entire section is 458 words.)