Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s most pervasive theme concerns irrevocable, perhaps inherited, loss. From the Creature’s loss of her father, to the loss of her husband, mother, and children, the story records a “tradition” of loss that is symbolized in the heirloom tapestry of ships perpetually at sea and in perpetual threat of destruction. The narrator, who is herself trying to recover from a love affair, becomes a player in this drama of loss—loss of family, innocence, and hope.

Attendant on this theme of loss is the role that landscape plays in the story. The story takes place in a remote part of western Ireland (the same region that James Joyce uses in his great story of loss, “The Dead”), where the narrator’s unquestioning referral to the woman known simply as “The Creature,” along with the town’s godforsakenness, suggests that all the characters somehow assume the semblance of grotesqueness that marks their surroundings.

The theme of grotesqueness also pervades the story, from its very first line (“She was always referred to as the Creature . . . ”) to its ending with its grotesque description of the town and its landscape. Every character in the story, including the narrator, is a victim of a social, emotional, moral, and psychological blight. Perhaps one aspect of this theme of grotesqueness is that Ireland—western Ireland in particular—is especially prone to spawn damaged, ill-begotten, and “blighted” individuals....

(The entire section is 411 words.)