(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Lost Boy” offers another glimpse of the Gants, the fictionalized version of Thomas Wolfe’s own family that is featured in his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel (1929). This story focuses on Grover Gant, the lost boy and older brother of Eugene Gant (Wolfe). It is told in four sections, viewed through the perceptions of Grover himself, his mother, his sister, and Eugene.

In April of 1904, the twelve-year-old newsboy Grover waits in the courthouse square of Altamont (actually Wolfe’s hometown of Asheville, North Carolina), for the newspapers he will sell. Grover, who is alive only in this section, is identified by his olive skin, his black hair and eyes, and the brown berry birthmark on his neck. He notes small details of the streets and shops he passes and takes comfort in the thought that in the square nothing ever changes.

Attracted by the smell of fresh, warm chocolate from the candy shop, Grover decides to buy fifteen cents’ worth of fudge with some stamps he has received from the pharmacist as payment for running errands. He mistakenly pays with eighteen cents in stamps, but the shopkeeper accuses Grover of stealing the extra stamps and refuses to return them. In tears, the boy goes to his father, who is able to set things right, and the world regains its balance and safety for Grover.

The second section of the story is told in a monologue that takes place years later as Eliza Gant, the mother, addresses the adult Eugene. Her distinctive voice is chatty and colloquial, with a country accent. She recalls the family’s journey through Indiana in 1904 when they traveled by train to the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as a recent interview with a reporter who sought to learn more about Eugene, who is now a...

(The entire section is 719 words.)