The Ask Themes

Themes

Disillusionment

The Ask focuses on the theme of disillusionment as Milo Burke is challenged to come to terms with a set of failed dreams, disappointments and betrayals. Along with Milo, Don Charboneau is a figure of disappointment, bitterness and disillusionment, losing his legs while serving in Iraq and losing his mother as the result of a car accident.

Milo Burke aspired to be a great painter. Ironically, Milo says, “he once believed he was painting’s savior, back in a decade that truly needed one.” The dream was never meant to be. Later recalling the advice of an art professor, Milo remembers being told that he had some talent, enough to make a career out of painting but only if he also had the pettiness and the strength to endure a life of scrambling for university jobs. These are traits he never develops.

In his adult life, he performs poorly at a job that he finds meaningless and occasionally paints on the weekends, sitting in front of a canvas and applying splotches of paint until “the old agony overwhelms” him and he weeps. This is the agony of a failed dream in the midst of a life defined by mediocrity. Admitting this does not allow Milo Burke to let go of his old dream but instead leads him to bitterly reflect on the state of his professional life.

When Milo discovers his wife’s affair with another man, he is again cast out. A failure as an artist (he never truly tried to take his professor’s advice) and a failure in marriage, Milo is also emotionally cast out by his mother. His father is dead.

The life he envisioned for himself is a far cry from the life he is living. Bitterness is Milo’s most prominent trait, one which he recognizes and, for the most part, chooses not to combat.

Purdy’s son, Don Charboneau, is also overwrought with bitterness, fixated on the things he does not and cannot have. He is bitter about the loss of his legs. He is bitter about the loss of his mother and he is bitter about never having known his father.

In a moment of near sincerity, Don Charboneau recognizes his anger and suggests that he is going to try to forgive and learn to let his anger go. He says this just before he plants an improvised explosive device on the car of another Iraq veteran; he then disappears.

Coming to terms and coping with loss proves difficult for Milo and impossible for Don, because both deal with the same disillusionment and the same belief that life for them should have been different.

Parenthood and Parenting

The most significant and fully explored relationships in The Ask concern parents and...

(The entire section is 1074 words.)