Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Doc’s Story” is a narrative within a narrative, and the core story concerns the importance of overcoming defeat. The story the narrator listens to is the lesson of how Doc, defeated by blindness, then defeated again when he lost his ability to shoot free throws, went on to play a basketball game in spite of his disability. It is a story that still resonates in the neighborhood in which Doc once lived and played because current players continue to repeat it.

The narrator uses that story to give himself hope: “If Doc could do that, then anything’s possible,” the narrator imagines himself at the end of the story telling the woman who has left him. “If a blind man could play basketball, surely we . . . ” He already knows that the woman would think the story fanciful, and yet he hopes, and his hope gives him the strength to go on. Doc’s story, the story of overcoming defeat, lives on to inspire others to try again. The further meaning of “Doc’s Story,” then, is the function of story itself as healing art, the therapeutic value of stories as they connect humans to one another, to their past, to their own inner lives. Certainly the narrator has benefited from hearing “Doc’s Story,” which is why he repeats it now. John Edgar Wideman implies that stories and storytelling can have these functions and values wherever and whenever they appear.

This power of story has still another, deeper meaning, and...

(The entire section is 442 words.)