Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Finding the Chain” effectively deploys several popular archetypal themes. There is, first, the journey. Only Cliffie has been in the north Georgia mountains before, so for the others a trip that far becomes an adventure. They deliberately avoid the interstate highway, instead taking another route that goes through towns and offers variety and richness. Moreover, the day after they arrive is Thanksgiving, a true American holy day, and to complete the sacrament they are blessed by softly falling snow—not a terrifying whiteout but just enough to baptize them all as a family after the prodigal son, Drew, redeems himself by finding the sacred relic.

Whereas Ben and the children see the long trip as a venture into the unknown, Cliffie experiences it as a homecoming. However, she suffers much ambivalence about it all: Her joy at seeing the old sights struggles with the pangs stirred in her by warm memories. The quilt goes first, ruined by the hapless dog. The buttons dribble down the knothole, the swing chain gets lost, and the doorknob turns up in the dump. These minor mishaps prove mostly correctable, but they put Cliffie through a swirl of emotions.

Through all these largely comic misadventures, the undercurrent of tension between Ben and Drew flares up repeatedly. Nothing suggests that Drew presents serious problems either in school or at home, but everything indicates that he resents Ben’s intrusion into his life with his mother and...

(The entire section is 461 words.)