Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Cimarron” first appeared in a collection of short stories by twenty-two writers that was designed to benefit Share Our Strengths, a campaign against hunger, homelessness, and illiteracy. In some ways the tragic circumstances experienced by Francine Prose’s character Coral might suggest a basis for the problems addressed by the campaign. After abruptly losing the emotional and physical support of her husband and pregnant with her first child, Coral becomes little more than an automaton. In deep shock she gazes repeatedly at pictures of Beirut in Newsweek, doing little more to care for herself than making mechanical trips to buy frozen dinners—one meal at a time. Though she realizes that this life is “unhealthy, and probably bad for the baby,” she cannot break her cycle of despondency.

Though issues of poverty and homelessness are not central to this story, one senses that the root causes for these conditions—such as loss through death, isolation, or alienation—are being suggested. In that respect, it is not so much that Margo and Gene offer Coral a place to live but that they present her with safe haven, a place where she can reassess her life and heal. As the story progresses, it conveys a slow movement toward Coral’s restoration of her strength and wits. Just as it is clear that Coral is a survivor, it is apparent that her willingness to live with Gene and Margo comes from her core of strength and knowledge of self. She is not...

(The entire section is 501 words.)