Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This story is a modern sexual comedy of manners about the education of Edward, a young, rather naïve Englishman who approaches his experience as a “supplicant and votary.” The story’s principal meanings emerge as Edward, along with students from Germany, Norway, Sweden, Tunisia, Nigeria, and the United States, attends a program in French language and culture offered by a university in Nice, France. Although Edward takes his studies seriously, Preston sees himself as an exile, cut off from home, rather than a student. He rarely attends classes, parties hard at his “club,” asks Edward about his French connections, and at the end of the story regrets not only his lost “dream lover” but also his lost educational opportunities. Both young men improve their understandings of themselves.

Edward becomes increasingly aware of his power over the boorish American Preston, and the story’s meaning emerges in this classic plot of two friends who discover that they are really rivals and that the quiet guy finally gets the “dream lover.” However, self-knowledge and sexual triumph come at a price for both. Edward has been “pimping” for Preston, but Preston has failed to take advantage of his educational opportunity and thus fails to attain his Platonic ideal lover, a French woman. When Edward at last brings the ideal woman to Preston’s apartment, he is saved from the likely consequence of his behavior by Lois’s unexpected presence and gets to...

(The entire section is 566 words.)