Green’s treatment of Roe’s and Pye’s relationship anticipates Robert Penn Warren’s dramatization of the symbolic relationship between Jack Burden and Willie Stark in All the King’s Men (1946). Like Stark, Pye is the more spectacular character who dies violently; like Burden, Roe is the book’s more reflective protagonist, who ponders the meaning of the other’s life and derives vital lessons from it. Pye can be considered Roe’s double, the id to his ego or shadow to his persona: his negative potential.
The men are linked by significant interlacings of their lives: Not only has Pye’s sister abducted Roe’s son, not only is Roe assigned to Pye’s station, but also Roe has once had the suicidal urge to which Pye eventually succumbs. Early in his Fire Service career, Roe encounters two young women who are sexually promiscuous with men in uniform. Instead of seizing this opportunity for himself, he panders it to Pye, “with the idea that, by putting them [the women] Pye’s way he might do himself a bit of good with the Skipper.” Roe thereby sets in motion a train of events that will doom Pye, since he loses his head and neglects his duties over one of the two women, Prudence, thereby forfeiting much of his authority over his men while infuriating his commander with his absences from the station.
One critic of Green’s fiction, A. Kingsley Weatherhead, has pointed out that Pye’s and Roe’s names “put together...
(The entire section is 584 words.)