Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lantern Slides (1990), the story collection in which “Another Time” appears, features a series of lonely older women who have been either widowed or jilted. Most of them have experienced rewarding love affairs, but these affairs are in the past. The present is dreary and the future looks even bleaker. Most attempts at rekindling love end in bitter loneliness. For many of them, loneliness is imposed by family or society; Nelly Nugent’s isolation is different—it is self-imposed. During her seaside visit, she spurns the overtures of two men—her neighbor at the hotel and the calf’s owner. She even makes Caimin, the dim-witted waiter who likes her, feel like “a dog that knows it has done something wrong.” When she walks on the almost deserted beach, she embraces solitude by reveling in “the isolation, the sense of being alone.”

When Edna O’Brien enters Nelly’s mind, it becomes clear why this former television celebrity is so determined to be alone: All of her relationships have caused intense suffering. Her marriage ended in divorce and a painful custody battle; the departure of her firstborn to boarding school caused a “rupture” resulting in “raw pain”; and her mother’s death led to a bitter struggle with her “maggot brother.” The past has such a powerful impact on Nelly that she is clearly on the verge of mental collapse. She dreams that one of her children had “stripped her of everything, even her teeth”;...

(The entire section is 445 words.)