Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Dan Chaon has said that “Fitting Ends” owes a debt to the self-reflexive story “Death in the Woods” (1926) by Sherwood Anderson. Like that story about a boy who sees a mysterious scene in the woods and tries to understand the meaning of it, Chaon’s self-conscious concern here is with how “storytelling” tries to come to terms with the ambiguous relationship between truth and lies by pulling disparate events together into a significant whole.

The theme is announced in the first paragraph when the narrator tells how his brother’s death has been transformed into the stuff of story in a book called More Tales of the Weird and Supernatural, a book that the author says is based on “true facts.” The event the author describes is concerned with one of the basic aspects of fiction—the presentation of events that anticipate events yet to occur. The author’s fascination with the story of the sightings of a ghost on the train track results from the fact that the ghost of Del appears two years before he died. As Stewart says, it is the nature of story that the reader can “imagine the ending.” This anticipates the ending of “Fitting Ends” when Stewart notes that at certain moments, all the loose ends of his life fit together as easily as a writer can write a ghost story in which all the details add up so the reader knows the end even before the last sentence.

Other references to story in “Fitting Ends” include...

(The entire section is 529 words.)