Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Estrangement and ensuing loneliness are the motivating forces that drive Chaveriat to find some sort of fulfillment in the arms of young girls—his tender shoots. It is with his boyhood friend Eyrand’s betrayal of their friendship that Chaveriat enters into his world of solitude, never again to establish a truly meaningful bond with another person. Even the secrecy of Chaveriat’s love life has limited an otherwise deeper relationship between him and his woman friend, the narrator. He confesses that he has been just like any other man in his involvement with women, his attraction toward a sensible marriage. However, he rejects any close or permanent relationship in a kind of self-willed effort to remain separate and alone.

The lonely world in which Chaveriat has chosen to live has prevented him from entering into an adult relationship on an intimate basis. He was unwilling to give up the deep abiding friendship he had with Eyrand. Not wanting to be hurt again, he substituted those to whom he would not and could not become deeply attached except on a superficial and physical basis. As Chaveriat stated, his friendship for Eyrand surpassed the faithful devotion of a lover for his mistress. Old boughs for tender shoots, he says to his woman friend, is the lie he tells to excuse himself for the lust he feels for young girls.

Though there appears at times to be some yearning for a deeper meaning in his relationship with young girls than simple sexual gratification, he has not...

(The entire section is 614 words.)