Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The Taganac River and Bryce Falls in “The Falls” serve, in a sense, as a metaphor for life. The girls in the story have disembarked onto the river in a canoe; it seems that they do not have paddles, and consequently they are swept along the river, powerless, condemned to meet their fate in the falls. Similarly, Morse seems to feel that he has been powerless to effect changes and to make things happen in his life; he has in effect been swept along by strong currents, lacking a paddle to fight them. His son is not kind and sweet but instead resembles the bullies who made his adolescence so painful, and his wife is not supportive and helps to chip away at his self-confidence. Morse has been a weak swimmer all his life, one at the mercy of currents.

At the same time, Morse and Cummings both show the danger of living too much in self-constructed worlds of fantasy and not enough in the real world. Morse and Cummings represent two sides of the same coin. Morse, frozen by doubt and anxiety, only creates fantasies in which he is a hero or enjoys some form of success after he has already envisioned the various horrible things that could happen to him. Cummings, on the other hand, ignores the reality of who he actually is, instead choosing to revel in his supremely self-aggrandizing mental picture of himself. Both fail to fully exist in the actual world of the here and now.

Just as there will always be currents in life that carry people against their...

(The entire section is 476 words.)