(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

After dropping out of college during his third year, Will has taken a job in an accounting office in the city. He visits longtime sweetheart Rachel, who is still a student. Rachel is now vaguely enamored with Professor Max Garey, one of her English teachers, who happens to visit her at the farm while Will is there. The three lie in the sun near a farm lake. When Max reads poetry to Rachel, Will grows angry and takes a walk. The couple break up as an immediate consequence.

The story contains several tensions and conflicts, including the expected competition between Max and Will for Rachel’s love. This rivalry, though important, is secondary to the tensions experienced by Max and Rachel in their relationship as lovers. Also evident are conflicts relating to being in school and not being in school, having a future and not having one, differences between the country and the city, between biological love and spiritual fulfillment, and between youth and age. For both Rachel and Will, the breakup occurs with the utmost passivity. They accept their differences and move on, each parting in the interests of the other and denial of self, for the matter of peace and inevitability, given the differing directions their lives have taken.

The tale here is not so much one of a broken love relation caused by a “triangle” or by lives that have taken opposite courses; rather, the story is about the manner and necessity of disintegration of a relationship in which the two characters do love each other in both deed and fact. The story’s primary revelation is that their parting is necessary because they love each other. They do not agree to separate because of the obstacles worked on them by circumstances, nor is the second suitor, Max, a serious contender for Rachel’s love.

The story has no surprises; the inevitability of the couple’s separation is made clear by the tone and atmosphere from its opening paragraph. There is an overwhelming recognition that parting is the only way each of them can survive, that their love can survive only if they are not together. Just as it is understood that their love will not grow, it is clear that it will not be destroyed.

Mark Schorer makes explicit his most...

(The entire section is 906 words.)