Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This brief glimpse into the life of a new mother is a study in pessimism that borders on despair. Iris once dreamed of being a medical doctor, but now she cannot even nurse her new baby without pain, and the meat that she buys at the supermarket and that she craves also disgusts her, reminding her of the way flesh turns gray and rots. The passion her husband once had for flight when he was in rocketry has turned to a preoccupation with refrigeration and moving to Colombia; his passion for her has chilled, too, and he is no longer interested in her or the baby. His blustering authority masks a feckless mediocrity. To Iris, even his eyes look like marble.

When she was younger and in love and Daniel was in rocketry, she felt the romance of imaginary flight. Now, she can only envy the birds, imagining that they can fly into the stratosphere, above the air ocean; by contrast, humans live under this ocean like bottom feeders, incapable of soaring like the birds. For Iris, flight symbolizes freedom from responsibility, motherhood, supermarket shopping, listening to the dismal dreams of her gray husband, and reading books that no longer inform or inspire, that only become overdue and burdensome. Dangling her feet from the roof of her house is as close as she can come to flight. She escapes by drinking wine on her rooftop and watching birds fly, and she maintains a tenuous hold on her responsibility as a mother by keeping an eye on her baby daughter in a carriage...

(The entire section is 498 words.)