Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Russell Banks writes of ordinary people who suffer the joys and sorrows of ordinary life. His stories are populated with working men and women who marry, have children, sometimes divorce, live by modest means, and grow old. His characters love as grandly and despair as profoundly as those who, by chance or fortune, are able to express their emotions more eloquently through creative endeavors. They do not write poetry or sad, tragic novels; instead, they live with their altered circumstances and adjust.

“The Moor” covers much of two lives in a span of no more than three hours. It is a sweet moment in time, a time filled with memories of youth and health, of a tall older woman with porcelain skin and thick red hair and a twenty-one-year-old boy testing his powers. In the dark of the restaurant and then in the snowy night, these two people find that the spark of their initial love and attraction remains, with all its drawing power. The man searches for the woman he once knew, looking carefully into her now cloudy but still intense blue eyes, knowing that if that woman is no longer there, then the boy he was is gone, too. For just a short time, they are able to capture the energy of an earlier time. He is reluctant to leave this memory of youth, wanting to stand on Gail Fortunata’s doorstep all night, watching their footprints fill with snow. However, he has to get up early for work the next day.

His observations on the drive home echo with the loneliness that most people feel when struck with the awareness that life is fleeting. He thinks of how the past is gone and how all that is left is the future. What is ahead of him may not seem like much, containing emptiness perhaps, but maybe some small joys as well, similar to that which he just experienced with the eighty-year-old Gail.