Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Clark Blaise’s tragic story focuses on the ideas of familiarity, alienation, and, ultimately, rejection. These ideas are lived out by Mance, Jr., sometimes on his own, and often vicariously through his father. Mance does not realize how important his familiarity with daily life in Montreal is until feelings of alienation begin during his Christmas at Uncle Howie’s. He hears foreign voices singing familiar carols on the radio, there is no snow as he is accustomed to at Christmas, and he cannot even console himself by listening to hockey scores on the radio. He feels alienated from the world of his relatives and wishes he could be in Montreal watching his hero, Rocket Richard.

When his father tries to fit in by removing his shirt like the others on the beach, his blotchy complexion and tattoo of Rocket Richard embarrass Mance. The image of his hockey hero now elicits shame instead of admiration. Mance’s last foothold of familiarity has been removed; his hero has fallen, as has his estimation of his father. His father is oblivious to his own awkward appearance, and Mance sees himself wanting to become a Schmitz.

His father wants desperately to have a job in the dry-cleaning business but cannot fit Uncle Howie’s ideal as a business partner or a man. He is turned down by Howie as he scampers along the seashore like a dog at Howie’s heels. He understands that this is his last chance for greatness, but it is not until he returns to Montreal and finds that Réal has taken his job that he plummets from feelings of alienation to final rejection. In retrospect, the narrator sees that his father cannot even return to the familiarity of Montreal for a respite and understands that he himself has rejected and alienated not only his father but also his hero, Rocket Richard, in an attempt to find a way out of his feelings of rejection toward himself.