Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Who is the true person, the real “me”? When, at the end of the story, the girl hysterically asserts, “I am me, I am me, I am me,” she asserts that she is both naughty and nice, both whore and madonna, capable of, as her lover discovers, “everything.” Her lover, however, cannot accept this to be his girl. He wants her to remain a “nice” girl, a pure girl, a girl who fulfills an unambiguous role. For the most part, she plays her role beautifully; she is shy, pure, and frequently embarrassed by her body. She does not question this role, for it is the one that Western society expects most of its women to play; as soon as she has an opportunity to act other than shy and pure, however, she does so with great zeal. In her new role, the girl becomes sexually assertive and positively aware of her body; she becomes a powerful female. Her lover, however, is threatened by her, and in order to maintain his male dominance, he must frighten and humiliate her.

The most telling moment in the story regarding the male need to dominate a threatening female is the scene in the hotel room when the man makes the girl get up on a table. This is an ironic comment on the image of woman on a pedestal. Before she climbs on the table—which is not only the proverbial pedestal but also the go-go dancer’s platform, the beauty contestant’s runway, the bride-to-be’s church aisle—the girl stops “playing the game.” Stripped naked before her lover, she believes...

(The entire section is 473 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Virgin/Whore Dichotomy
Central to the relationship between the young man and the young woman in ‘‘The Hitchhiking Game'' is...

(The entire section is 693 words.)