Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A former Jesuit priest, John L’Heureux often centers his stories around moments in ordinary lives in which something extraordinary—something possibly spiritually charged—takes place. This is one such story, an account of a crisis in the life of a woman who decides to have a few laughs before it is too late.

Corinne is unusual only in her fascination with getting on the stage as a stand-up comic. The first complication that the pregnancy causes is her increasing self-consciousness, her awareness that she is, in fact, different from the other people around her. Her body is changing shape and, unless she has an abortion, there is no avoiding the fact that she no longer blends into the crowd. She must stand on her own two feet and make choices of her own.

Corinne’s growing sense of self causes further problems in her burgeoning career as she recognizes that she hates the jokes that other comedians find so funny, because they demean their audiences and themselves. The pregnancy changes Corinne’s sense of what is important in life; she suddenly becomes serious.

In the process of Corinne’s growing sense of individual identity and responsibility, her senses come alive, almost painfully so. Her eyes become overly sensitive to light, as if she is seeing the world around her for the first time and finds there is a great deal that is painful to look at. Even more significant, perhaps, is her increasingly acute sense of hearing. She is the only one who can hear the baby’s singing. It may be that this is a sign of mental problems, as her husband suspects, but since the beginning of pregnancy, Corinne has consciously developed her ability to listen. She listens more closely to her husband than ever before, and discerns that he is as alone in life as she now recognizes herself to be. Mostly she listens to her interior, hearing not only the baby but also her own spirit that she has ignored for so long.

The result of these heightened senses is that Corinne now feels more than she used to, and empathizes with Russ, her baby, and her audience. Her comedy becomes the human comedy, sensitive and gently optimistic, which is why her lounge act becomes so successful.