Complete Collected Stories of V. S. Pritchett by V. S. Pritchett

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Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Love and sex stand as major Pritchett themes, principally because they encourage him to focus upon human involvements that by their very nature arise from and relate to social and psychological conflicts. In "The Diver" (from The Camberwell Beauty and Other Stories, 1974, and first published as in the New Yorker as "The Fall" ), a young Englishman undergoes an initiation into love. Mocked by a middle-aged French woman lying naked on her bed, he lies in response to her question, "You have never seen a woman before?" A sexual block has hindered his powers as a man and as a writer. However, as he stands there, naked and frightened, his brain begins to fashion a story; he becomes a writer again. As Eudora Welty pointed out, "The Diver" allows us to understand that "in times of necessity or crisis, a conspiracy may form among the deep desires of our lives to substitute for one another, to masquerade sometimes as one another, to support, to save one another."

For instance, in "Blind Love" (from Blind Love and Other Stories, 1969), two persons suffering from permanent damage and blemish achieve a perverted state of love. The blind Mr. Armitage hires Mrs. Johnson, possessor of an extensive and horrifying birthmark that she views as the worst of all possible human insults. As a newly-wed, she had been forced from her husband's house after the latter recoiled in horror from seeing the birth-mark accusing her of deceiving him. Thus her affair with Armitage represents the unification of blindness and deception. Again, in "The Marvelous Girl" (from The Camberwell Beauty and Other Stories), blindness in the form of "love in the dark" appears to underscore the theme of failed love. Francis, the husband sits in the back of the audience, in the dark, but can see his wife seated on a stage, basking in the light of public view. He represents a spectator of his failed marriage. Suddenly, the auditorium lights fail; one can only feel and hear. In the darkness, the man accidentally bumps into his wife, the few seconds of their recognizable touch being the brief period of their marriage. The tights come on again and Francis leaves the auditorium with a young secretary, his wife's coworker and "the marvelous girl" whom he has been pursuing. From the lighted building, they enter the darkness of the city. No matter what the object or point of view, love, for Francis, wallows in total darkness.

(The entire section is 613 words.)