The Far and the Near

by Thomas Wolfe

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What is the moral lesson in the Story "The Far and The Near"?

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It might be useful to think of "The Far and the Near" as an observation that our realities are shaped by our perceptions. For years, the engineer had observed the mother and child from a distance and made assumptions about them that turned out to be false when he went out of his way to actually meet them. It is fair to say that Wolfe invites readers to question their own assumptions in life and be forewarned that if investigated, those assumptions can lead to disappointment or disillusionment.

The engineer's surprise and deep dismay about his misjudging the situation of the woman and her daughter causes him to have an existential crisis. He recognizes "the strange and unsuspected visage of the earth which had always been within a stone’s throw of him," and likely thereafter questions all of the "truths" he has believed in throughout his life.

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The moral of a story is the lesson we should take from it. Morals are usually connected with fables. The engineer has spent so much of his time idealizing the two women he has waved to from his train, he has a sense of urgency when he's finally going to meet them. Instead, he's greatly disappointed, feeling regret and foolishness that he has wasted his time. It even affects him physically, making him realize he's a weak, old man. "His heart, which had been brave and confident when it looked along the familiar vista of the rails, was now sick with doubt and horror." His idealistic vision of the women had given him happiness for so long, and now, with bitter disppointment, he realizes "that all the magic of that bright lost way, the vista of that shining line, the imagined corner of that small good universe of hope's desire, could never be got again." 

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