At the heart of every short story is its theme, an understanding about life that the writer wishes to share with the reader. The theme is usually closely tied to the major change that occurs in the story. For example, the main character situation or view might change, or the reader's opinion of the main character might change. Identify what changes during "The Weapon" and explain what Jackson shows us about life through this change.
In Frederic Brown’s short story, “The Weapon,” the major change takes place at the end of the story, and concerns the attitude of the protagonist, Dr. Graham, towards the mysterious visitor, Niemand.
At the end of the story, Dr. Graham realizes that Niemand has given a loaded gun to his “mentally arrested” son. Before this revelation, Dr. Graham thinks positively of Niemand. After this revelation, Dr. Graham thinks of Niemand as a “madman.”
This sudden change at the end of the story comes as something of a surprise to the reader. Indeed, the image of an innocent but “mentally arrested” child being given a loaded gun, by a mysterious, and seemingly affable stranger, is a quite shocking turn of events. It is, however, a very calculated twist which effectively conveys the central idea, or point of the story.
When Niemand gains entry into Dr. Graham’s house, he asks him to stop working on a “rather ultimate” weapon which could “end the human race’s chances for survival." Dr. Graham refuses to do as Niemand asks him, explaining that he “know(s) all the arguments” but is “only a scientist.” The implication is that he has been instructed to make the weapon and thinks that it is none of his concern as to what the weapon is used for.
At the end of the story, Niemand gives Dr.Graham’s “mentally arrested” son a loaded gun to prove a point. The point is that giving a loaded gun to a “mentally arrested” child is equivalent to giving an “ultimate weapon” to someone regardless of what that someone might plan on doing with it. At the end of the story, Dr. Graham proclaims, incredulously, that “only a madman would give a loaded gun to an idiot.” The equivalence to his own actions seems to escape him, but it is less likely to escape the reader.
This story was first published in 1951, during the Cold War, and is a warning about the lunacy of the nuclear arms race which defined that war.
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