Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Susan Minot’s theme explains the painful ambivalence a young woman faces as she becomes part of the sexually active world of the early 1970’s. The narrator is unprepared to face the pressure of male desire, and although the birth control pill has liberated her to be able to comply with the sexual lust of her boyfriends, she has no idea of her own sexual needs or how connected they are to emotional intimacy. Minot demonstrates the great divide between male and female desire, and the story’s title, “Lust,” becomes a key word for exploring the psychological complexities of sexual desire. The sexual roles that a young woman might have played ten years earlier have been dramatically altered with the advent of birth control pills and the loosening of strict supervision. The young people in this story drink often, smoke pot, and have sex with a casualness that would astound their parents. Minot wants to show the psychological dangers of such liberation by giving a detailed look at the emotional harm that ensues when a young woman does not have a clear idea of what she can expect, ask for, or demand before she has sexual intercourse.

Although Minot titles her story “Lust,” she is also exploring what it might mean to open the heart. This is what the narrator cannot do; she writes, “You open your legs but can’t, or don’t dare anymore, to open your heart.” Not one of her sexual partners ever says “I love you”; it would undoubtedly sound...

(The entire section is 541 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of Minot's major themes is the gradual disintegration and devaluation of women's souls as they progress from childhood into puberty. As a...

(The entire section is 193 words.)