Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“No one at home”—so begins the next-to-final scene of “Coach.” The phrase expresses Mary Robison’s concern about the disintegration of the American family. There is no true intimacy between Coach and his wife. Just as he is obsessed with his coaching career, she wants only her “room apart.” Neglected by both, Daphne must look out for herself. Significantly, she is searching for food in the refrigerator when she appears in the story. This signifies her need for emotional and intellectual nourishment as well. Her parents are unconcerned about her schoolwork, although she is taking makeup courses, and both refuse to help with her algebra.

A fifteen-year-old adolescent, Daphne is becoming interested in boys. When Toby mildly flirts with her, she rolls her chin seductively on her shoulder. Oblivious to her need for parental guidance, Coach and Sherry are glad when she is off with Toby, out of their way. Coach’s insensitivity to Daphne’s feelings are revealed at the Dairy Frost, where he is more upset that he cannot remember Bobby’s name than he is concerned about Daphne’s apprehension that her parents are separating. His insensitivity is also demonstrated when he makes fun of her dancing before the mirror.

Rather than encourage the development of Daphne’s individual identity, Coach, with the complicity of Sherry, uses Daphne to support his own ego. He probably wanted a son instead of a daughter, a boy such as Bobby Stark....

(The entire section is 468 words.)