Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring” is an initiation story about a young woman coming to terms with adulthood, both by resolving the conflicted feelings she has about her father and by becoming more confident about her own artistic endeavors and life. The story implies that by coming to terms with her own inner struggles, she will be better able to deal with the external difficulty of living in an atmosphere in which her heritage is not valued or even understood. Sarah’s internal and external struggles are connected: She doubts her father’s strength because of the way he was treated by his white employers; envisioning her father as a weak man, she feels unable to portray strong men in her art; once she recognizes the strength in the males of her family, her artistry is released and her connection with her own culture becomes healthier, making her more able to deal with external obstacles.

Although the story is cyclical, in that it begins and ends with Sarah at the northern college, it is cyclical geographically, not psychologically. The doubts and questions Sarah has at the beginning are resolved by the end. She is back at the college to master her creative abilities, but she is now more confident about the direction of her life. Sarah identifies her life with that of the black novelist Richard Wright, an important novelist to her, yet one that the other women at Cresselton do not know; in Sarah’s mind, they are identified more by the world of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose novel The Great Gatsby (1925) presents the lives of the leisured rich.