(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Visitor” is an account of how a man’s past has shaped his present. As the story begins, the anonymous narrator tells of his recent trip from his home in New York City to East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania to deliver a lecture. The university is a short distance from Tobyhanna, where he lived as a boy; on an impulse, he drives the extra miles to visit the town.

Paragraphs about the narrator’s childhood in Tobyhanna—his parents and their rage, a visit to the local bar, and the home in which his family lived—are interwoven with paragraphs about his more recent past—his adult visit to the town—both narrated from his mature perspective. The year that the narrator and his family lived in Tobyhanna was a time of frustration for his parents. His father drank heavily, womanized, and lied to his wife about how he spent his evenings. As his drinking increased and he spent more time away from home, he became increasingly violent. The narrator’s mother was stuck with three small children in a house five miles from town.

As the adult narrator arrives in Tobyhanna, he pulls up to the bar on the main street and goes inside. The smell, look, dampness, and dirty feel of the place are so unchanged that reentering it makes the narrator recall a visit that he, his father, and his brother made there thirty-four years earlier. This bit of memory is the beginning of a longer one about a specific Saturday during one winter; throughout the remainder of the story the remembering and telling about that visit parallels the events and details of the narrator’s recent visit. The locals gathered in the bar in 1986 remind him of those present on that distant Saturday—his father and his cronies and a woman with red lipstick to whom his father gave his complete attention.

The bartender asks the adult narrator if he wants another beer; this abruptly pulls the story forward into the more recent past. The narrator declines and leaves. When he is back in his car, his story again goes back in time, and he is a young boy riding home from the bar with his father and brother. His father...

(The entire section is 865 words.)