Compare Theme in “Last Spring they came over" and " One-two-three Little Indians".

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both these Modernist (about 1917 to 1945) short stories have themes of personal identity fragmentation and exploitation. In "Last Spring They Came" (1927), the brothers Alex and Harry are exploited by their fellow journalists who, merely to taunt them, tell them of a breaking news story that is completely false, completely made up. As expected, Alex and Harry don't understand enough about being journalists to confirm the facts and verify the story. As a result, they submit a false story and are fired from their jobs.

In "One-Two-Three Little Indians" (1952), Big Tom is accustomed to the exploitation Native American Indians routinely face. Yet, Tom's baby is ill and needs medical care that Big Tom can't afford, so he is willing to voluntarily submit to the exploitation his identity subject him to when he goes to the nearby tourist camp to earn extra cash for medical care. Ironically, his wife Mary exploits him too by leaving him to care for the baby's worsening condition while she goes out dancing, lamenting her dirty, broken-heeled "silver dancing pumps." Exploitation takes a deeper turn again when Big Tom consciously exploits the tourists' expectations by masquarading as a "real Indian with a feather'n everything" in order to increase his earnings from them.  

In "Last Spring They Came," Callaghan shows the psychological personality adaptations the brothers must make to their new jobs and new environment and contrasts this with their well adjusted psychological personality adaptations to their old life in England. The letters they write home--full of humor, good will, optimism and very creatively inventive stories--show the personal identity fragmentation they experience. These letters stand in stark contrast to the news stories they write and to the struggles they have finding what to be in the new environment of their immigrant's world.

In "One-Two-Three Little Indians," Garner illustrates personal identity fragmentation in a couple of ways. While some critics say Mary, Big Tom's wife, is "stereotypically" characterized as being self-absorbed, it is entirely possible to analyze her character as fragmented, not stereotyped. She is distanced from Tom. She is distanced from her baby. She drowns her conflicted of identity in loud atmosphere of music. This represents the fragmentation of her identity as surely as the baby's death symbolizes Big Tom's fragmented identity: his exploited identity was insufficiently strong, unified and cohesive enough to find a productive path through his identity conflicts to saving his baby's life.

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