Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Closing Down of Summer” explores the challenges to meaningful human communication, the loss of local cultures in an increasingly standardized world, and the poignancy of one’s awareness of mortality.

At the beginning of the story, the narrator states that telephone calls and telegrams from the head office in Toronto have been left unanswered, introducing an important theme relating to human communication. In this case, the lack of communication is deliberate and temporary. In the case of the narrator’s growing deafness, the inability to communicate is caused by aging and physical injury. However, throughout the story, the impediments to genuine communication are formidable and sometimes seem almost insurmountable.

The narrator, his crew, and those in the profession have a fund of common experience that enables them to communicate effectively and significantly with each other. However, the difference between their everyday world and that of their families makes genuine communication with even loved ones extremely difficult, if not impossible. When working abroad, the postcards that they send home are entirely superficial in their breezy news and standard inquiries. In their brief sojourns at home, they experience the same inability to connect meaningfully with those who should be closest to them.

The miners in the chorus sing songs in a language and from a culture that fewer and fewer know, and so their...

(The entire section is 519 words.)