Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The title itself is a key to unlocking the meaning of the text. At one point in the narrative, Butch, referring to the horizon, asks, “Can we walk to the distance?” Sixbury replies, “We can try, but, no, we can’t get there.” This possible allusion to the poem “I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon” by the American poet Stephen Crane offers commentary on the characteristic human longing to chase after the unattainable. Like the speaker in Crane’s poem, Sixbury knows that the horizon is an imaginary line.

This is a realization that also comes to David Larson, who, after spending much of his free time at the rest area assembling plastic model cars—an act symbolic of his urge to be in motion—comes finally to throw these toys away and settle for the given.

One must not confuse the horizon with the edge. Butch uses the term “edge” to mean “horizon,” but she is corrected by Sixbury. The term “edge” has two important meanings in the novel. First, there is the edge of Montgomery Cliff upon which the highway rest area is perched. Damon Zacks, while climbing over the rail to get closer to the rim, tells David, “The edge is where you should be, brother!”

In a very real sense, David has already made such a choice. The West is still the “edge” of America, and classic frontier values are still evident in the behavior of its people. This is another aspect of the title’s meaning—one is not asked to walk alone....

(The entire section is 433 words.)