Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Aunt Moon’s Young Man” explores the theme of spiritual well-being. The role of storytelling, the importance of ancestry, the nature of relationships among women, and the difficulty of coming of age are all issues in the story that contribute to the narrator’s development of inner strength.

Two kinds of storytelling exist side by side. Mean-spirited gossips spread the details of Aunt Moon’s questionable parentage. This malicious narration seems to wound the communal spirit. By contrast, the narrator’s mother tells stories about Aunt Moon’s life that help the younger woman understand and respect her elder. The narrator’s fascination with Aunt Moon is linked to her curiosity about the mostly forgotten ways of her tribe. Aunt Moon inherits from her parents the knowledge of the medicinal value of dried herbs. The narrator seems to understand that, in a quest for identity, one’s heritage is an important area of investigation. Healing is not Aunt Moon’s only power. She is a strong woman both physically and intellectually: The narrator respects her for her ability to deliver Holstein calves, as well as for her analysis of American culture. The narrator delights in this model of feminine strength. Aunt Moon sets an example that the young woman cannot find in any other person, even her mother.

The narrator’s mother is a strong woman in the sense of being a stern authority figure. She seems to read her daughter’s mind and rein in...

(The entire section is 490 words.)