In "The Cranes" by Peter Meinke, why do you think the man kills the woman? What clues are embedded in the story? How does this indirect kind of telling affect the reader? Did the ending of the...

In "The Cranes" by Peter Meinke, why do you think the man kills the woman? What clues are embedded in the story?

How does this indirect kind of telling affect the reader?

Did the ending of the story surprise you?  If so why, and if not why not?

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear in the descriptions from the outset that the couple are out to commit some kind of unnatural act. The fact that there is "a shower curtain on the front seat" that "cracked and hissed" is a hint. We gradually discover their intent as we continue reading. There are little nuances about their plan, which is exposed by what they say not only about themselves but also about the cranes. The language is quite suggestive and one discovers in the end exactly what it was that they had been planning.

In the end we know that they were at the lake for a final goodbye. It is evident that this place is a favorite since the man mentions that he has been "coming here for years." At this specific time they came there to commit suicide. One can surmise that after he had shot his wife, the man would also take his own life.

It is ironic that the couple should wallow in the beauty they witness during their final moments. It is as if their final act is a deliberate and celebratory farewell to all the beauty they are about to leave behind. The actions of the cranes and the remarks the couple make about them seem to be symbolic of their own lives. It is quite apparent that they love and have loved each other deeply and shared the same kind of lifelong commitment they mention the cranes have for each other.

The woman's question about the man feeling alright and blaming herself for what they are about to do, followed by his response about not being able to do much, epitomizes the care they have for one another. It is evident that they both feel that their time has come since he believes that he has become useless and too old:

''No way. I can't smoke, can't drink martinis, no coffee, no candy. I not only can't leap buildings in a single bound, I can hardly get up the goddamn stairs.''

''How old am I anyway, 130?''

She thinks that she has become too much of a burden after an apparent accident, which probably disabled her in some way.

''It's me. Ever since the accident it's been one thing after another. I'm just a lot of trouble to everybody.''

Added to this, their children seem to have forgotten about them. The man's observation of the cranes epitomizes this fact:

"They're probably older than we are! Their feathers are falling out and their kids never write.''

Using the couple's dialogue to tell the story adds a greater element of drama and involves the reader directly. It is as if one is listening in on a very private conversation. It also enables the writer to include subtle hints and suggestions, through the couple's intimate dialogue, about what is to happen. 

The ending does not come as much of a surprise since the writer has subtly suggested what the couple are there for. His references, for example, to the shower curtain and the way that the man "picked up an object wrapped in a plaid towel" (a gun), as well as the woman's question of whether he had remembered to bring something for his ears (protection against the sound of a gun blast), are all indicators of what is to ensue. Further affirmation is found in the author's use of phrases such as "dull and somehow sinister" and "metallic isolation."

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