Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tim Gautreaux’s milieu is the rural farm country of south central Louisiana. Although his characters are often down on their luck, their moral values are sound. Gautreaux writes about working-class men and women who meet a challenge to their humaneness and usually manage to handle it with courage and grace. Comparing him to Flannery O’Connor, critics have praised his stories as being morally complex in their depiction of human frailty and deceptively simple in their lyrical style.

“Welding with Children” exhibits Gautreaux’s typical focus on a working-class man who has made a few mistakes and tries to start afresh. There is nothing shiftless about Bruton, but he does have a tendency to let things slide a bit. The reader is not given any information about how he brought up his four daughters, but the fact that each of them has an illegitimate child suggests moral laxity somewhere. The fact that his wife seems more interested in going to the local casino than helping with the grandchildren suggests that he gets no moral support from her either.

In his “Contributor’s Note” to The Best American Short Stories, 1998, Gautreaux says that Bruton is typical of grandparents all over the country who are raising their grandchildren because they did not raise their children right in the first place. However, Gautreaux is not trying to teach any social message here but to create a comic tour de force in which a grandfather is stymied by the video store and MTV influences that threaten to...

(The entire section is 624 words.)