Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Robert Fox’s “A Fable” illustrates the emptiness, sterility, and anomie of modern existence. Like all fables, it relies heavily on its implicit moral. The most famous writer of fables was Aesop, whose little stories about animals generally show them engaging in foolish behavior in order to teach by implication what intelligent people should do. For example, in one fable a dog loses the bone that he is holding in his mouth when he tries to snatch the bone that he sees in the mouth of his own image reflected in a pond. The moral might be expressed as “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The moral of Fox’s short story may be harder to express in a single sentence. It would be too simplistic to express the moral as “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” The young man and young woman in the story are certainly marrying in haste, but they may never develop enough insight into their own identities to repent at all. If they go through life without knowing whether they are happy or unhappy, they will be just like almost everybody else.

Fox’s story is a modern fable similar to those of the famous American humorist James Thurber, collected in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems (1940). As such, “A Fable” is considerably more complicated than the fables, parables, and myths of classic literature. Life has gotten complicated because of the onslaught of mass media, the frantic pace of life driven by modern transportation and...

(The entire section is 454 words.)