Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A major theme of “Gent” concerns dealing with uncertainty. Fathers come and go, housing and financial status change, and a new baby or a new man may create further anxieties. How is a young boy to react? One way, the story shows, is to observe rather than to judge or to hope. Whether this is a realistic and admirable coping strategy or a sad commentary on life is left up to the reader. LaDonna, Jack’s slightly younger sister, copes by having plans. She wants to be a scientist. For the present, she asks for things she knows she can get: a stepfather who has money and a new microscope he will buy for her.

Jade has lost two husbands to suicide and copes with poverty and depression by marrying a physically unattractive man fifteen years her senior who has money and loves to show her off in public. She produces his son, “the Mundy heir.” However, before the baby is a year old, a muscular young man appears very interested in her. What will happen next?

Related to uncertainty is the focus on past versus present versus future. Jack remembers his father as a war hero, but no one ever talks about him, and Jack seldom dwells on the past beyond reciting his set little history of the two husbands, and he does not have plans for the future. He likes feeling older and tries to create a sophisticated style, looking at himself in the mirror while he smokes or imitating a tough film character. However, when the chance encounter occurs between his...

(The entire section is 575 words.)