Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While working on the short-story collection Light Action in the Caribbean (2000), Barry Lopez told his editor that he wanted to write a book “leavened by unmitigated evil.” With its horrifying ending, the title story seems to embody that attempt most clearly. In an interview, Lopez said the story began in his imagination as about a couple who are so superficial and materialistic that they are irritating. He wanted to create a woman who could not imagine her life without a man in it and an arrogant man who thought that he was so brilliant that he was superior to everyone around him.

Lopez creates a satire of such a man, the kind of person who wears tailored suits and wide suspenders, who acts as if he knows everything and who generally irritates almost everyone around him with his sense of superiority and condescension. There is absolutely no redeeming quality about David. He is selfish, self-centered, cocky, sadistic, and amoral. However, because he is such an unlikeable character, the reader is placed in an uncomfortable position at the end when he is so brutally killed. On one hand, the reader has a tendency to think David got what he deserved. However, at the same time, the reader is shocked with the extremity of his punishment for being rude and arrogant.

Lopez said in an interview that if a maître d’ kicked David out of a restaurant because of his rude behavior, the reader would feel that was good, but “if he’s going...

(The entire section is 444 words.)