Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Two basic themes pervade “The Marijuana Party”: the conflict between what people appear to be on the surface and their true inner selves, and the fascination that people have in what they profess to condemn. In her spotlessly clean house, wearing polyester pants, baking pumpkin bread, Petra appears to be just an ordinary, well-behaved middle-aged housewife—but she treats her friends to marijuana and porno movies. Tottie, nearly fifty years old, is an active Roman Catholic, but professes no shame about searching her son’s car for contraband, and then enjoying the porno films that she finds. Although Emily (apparently the youngest of the three) seems to be shocked by Petra’s earthy behavior, she gets along “famously” with Petra and apparently spends considerable time with her two less inhibited friends. When offered marijuana, she runs from the room, only to return immediately to participate. She seems already to know how to smoke pot but claims to have learned these things only from the drug awareness programs at school. She insists that she is not enjoying the pot but is sampling it only to make her a more effective member of the school’s drug awareness committee by teaching her the drug’s dangers. Similarly, when she agrees to watch the porno video, she insists that she does so only in order to give a talk on the subject to her sister’s antipornography group.