(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Views of My Father Weeping,” there is no realistic plot line based in the conventions of cause and effect and set in some existing time and space. Rather, Donald Barthelme presents the reader with a story about the supposed death of a narrator’s father combined with interlineations that present alternating views of a father weeping. To complicate the matter even further, the story about the death of the father may or may not be true because the coachman, who storifies the experience, is reported to be a “bloody liar.” In addition, the juxtaposition in the story of the narrator to the coachman suggests a doubling of the two men, an identification that makes the narrator a “bloody liar,” too.

Asterisks separate thirty-five paragraphs that constitute the story. Paragraphs range from twenty-five lines to one line, the shortest being the last, which consists of one abbreviated word, “Etc.,” which brings the reader back to the beginning of the story in an endless circle or a series of infinite regressions. The retrograde character of the action is consistent with the interlineations where “regression” operates in psychoanalytic terms to suggest a return of the libido to earlier stages of development or to infantile objects of attachment in the case of both father and son.

The opening of the story consists of two sentences establishing a possibly factual situation: “An aristocrat was riding down the street in his carriage. He ran over my father.” The presence of an “aristocrat” in a “carriage” suggests a period when noblemen were driven about in coaches by liveried coachmen. The place of the accident, in King’s New Square, together with references to the nobleman, the Lensgreve Aklefeldt, a count who lives at 17 rue du Bac, suggests a European setting. On the other hand, the interlineations refer to, among other things, mail carriers, insurance salespeople, armadillos, Ford Mustangs, television, and the American plains in such a way as to identify a setting in modern times in the United States. Furthermore, in the interlineations, the father is alive, if aged and continually weeping.

The tie between the storified experience concerning the death of the father and the interlineations is the narrator. In the storified experience, the narrator is searching for the “truth” about the killing of his father. In the interlineations, the narrator is searching for the “truth” about his feelings for his father, which will result in his own ego identity.


(The entire section is 1034 words.)