Often the significance of a story hinges on a single image or a powerful twist in the action. In "The Watcher," the image that crystallizes the final irony is that of an Oriental statue. The boy puts the academic bully in mind of Padmasambhava, the Hindu idol with close-set eyes that suggest concentration and intense inner vision. Ironically, it is the boy who, after witnessing every sordid incident in the story, makes the final decision to side with his grandmother against Thompson, and passes in the process from pastoral innocence to a rather risky adventure in the lower regions of experience.
In "Cages" the title is most expressive of the psychological mood of a story that moves from occupational discomfort to emotional and mental entrapment. The miner's cage and occupation become stark analogies for the young narrator's descent into his father's mind and heart.
Vanderhaeghe's technique is emblematic rather than symbolic, for the images are precise and their context concretely rendered. There is no impulsion toward airy, abstract generalizations, for the images appear to grow naturally out of the stories — as in "Dancing Bear," for instance, where the title expresses the paradox of a dangerous, persecuted animal which is as much a victim as a killer. This bear is a perfect analogy for the central character, an old, incapacitated man whose zealous imagination causes him to burst with pent-up frustration.
The wonder of...
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