Ralph the Duck Questions and Answers
by Frederick Busch

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What is the theme of "Ralph the Duck" by Frederick Busch ? I found it hard to come up with a sentence that can convey all of the aspects in the story (the conflict b/t the narrator and his professor, "sexual harrassment" vs. the love the narrator has as a father for the girl) to the making of the theme.

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"Ralph the Duck" is one of fourteen stories in Frederick Busch's anthology novel Absent Friends. It revolves around a couple quietly suffering after the loss of their daughter. The main protagonist is the husband, who is employed as a security officer and custodian at an American university. At one point, he risks his own life to save a student who has gone missing in the freezing cold, perhaps as a way to make sure some other parent doesn't have to go through the same thing he did.

A recurring theme in the story is the death of children, and some have postulated that Busch may have derived the story based on fears of losing his own sons, one of whom served in the Iraq War. Coupled with the feeling of loss is the intensity with which parents can love their child and the pain that it can create in such...

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