People Like That Are the Only People Here

by Marie Lorena Moore
Start Free Trial

What do the characters in Moore’s story mean when they say “people like that are the only people here”?

A reference to the kind of folk you'd normally expect to see in a hospital setting: doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals cheerfully striving to remain optimistic in the face of serious illness and disease.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The intriguing title of the story is almost a direct quotation from the narrator's friend:

Everyone’s so friendly here. Is there someone in this place who isn’t doing all this airy, scripted optimism—or are people like that the only people here?

In this story within a story, "people like that" is a reference to the kind of folk you'd normally expect to see in a hospital setting: doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals cheerfully striving to remain optimistic in the face of serious illness and disease.

For the narrator's friend there's something "scripted" about all of this, something unreal. And she's right; this is, after all, a piece of metafiction that draws attention to the artificialities of its own construction. But her remark betrays a certain impatience with the restrictions of literary convention. It's as if she wants there to be people in the story who aren't "like that", who aren't optimistic about the survival chances of her friend's son.

That's not to say that she doesn't want her friend's son to get well; it means, from the standpoint of metafiction, that she'd like to see a greater variety of characters in the story, people with radically different outlooks on life, death, and the human condition from those who maintain an "airy, scripted optimism." This is the standpoint that a writer would adopt, and also the discerning reader, who wants to read a story set in a hospital environment that doesn't resort to the usual clichés.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team