(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Minor Heroism” is a story in three parts. The first part is essentially a biographical sketch of Richard in his prime, from his stint in the military in the 1940’s to his young fatherhood in the 1950’s.

Along with most of the members of his fraternity at the University of Virginia, Richard enlists in the Army Air Corps in 1942; he subsequently serves as a bombardier during the controversial Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in February of 1945. On his return from that mission, he is “decorated for minor heroism” and photographed being kissed by actress and pin-up girl Betty Grable. It is this photograph and others featuring his handsome face that accord Richard a certain “local glamour.”

After the war, with a debutante bride in hand, he returns to his native North Carolina, where his residual celebrity is useful in setting up his insurance business. Richard and Helen settle into an apparently comfortable middle-class life and become, at least on the surface, a typical suburban couple of the 1950’s. They raise two children and join the local country club.

The narrative’s second part focuses on Richard’s relationship to his two sons. In contrast to his younger son Bradley, who has followed in his father’s footsteps by graduating from the same college, marrying a girl from a good family, and establishing a comfortable career, Bryan is, in Richard’s eyes, an enigma. Richard’s worries begin when...

(The entire section is 519 words.)