Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The dirty sock and the “dust-festooned sweatshirt” that Jessica retrieves from under Francie’s bed characterize Francie’s disorganized life and her helplessness in the face of life’s challenges. However, Francie’s defense is rather spirited, as she tells Jessica that “There are people in the world who are not afraid to face reality, to face the fact that the floor is the natural place for a sock, that the floor is where a sock just naturally goes when it’s off.” This attitude contrasts with the temperament of the world’s efficient people, such as the severe Mrs. Peck, Jessica and her “tall, chestnut-haired mother,” and the hard-working Miss Healy, her mother’s nurse. The remark about facing reality foreshadows the courage she will show in dealing with her mother’s death and the discovery of her still-living father.

Jessica arrives at the hospital wearing a “short, filmy dress and motorcycle jacket and electric-green socks,” and as she stands in Kevin McIntyre’s doorway, she remembers that “She’d been wearing the same dress, the same socks, for days.” However, despite Francie’s slovenly ways and her indifferent manner of dress, her determination to deal with Kevin McIntyre reveals a capable woman under stress, and her story is partly a coming-of-age narrative.

The befuddlement of the pleasant Iris Ackerman emphasizes the strangeness of life, with its crashing blimps and newly discovered fathers. Most...

(The entire section is 554 words.)