Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On its broadest level, “The Moving” is a portrait of a community in severe straits because of the industrialization of a rural culture. The coal business is known for its boom and bust cycles, and clearly this story is set in a bust. Because of the economic situation, the people of Hardstay face two dismal options: They can either stay “where there’s a floor underfoot and joists overhead,” but possibly die of dry rot, or take their chances and migrate into a land where “they’s no work anywheres.” James Still’s characters react in both ways, a division reflected by the repetition of “they” and “we” in the opening paragraph: Some stay “locked”—a resonant word in the story—in a place they know and trust, but where there is minimal opportunity; others try to unlock themselves from their hopeless condition, although to do so is to journey into the unknown.

The choices made inform the story’s central tension between the community and the narrator’s family. Father, Mother, and the boy, because they are moving, are no longer accepted by the community. With the exception of the widow Sula and the dimwit Hig—both community outcasts—the townspeople appear to turn against the family, mocking them, vandalizing their home, shunning them as they drive away. Once the family leaves, returning is not an option—a dilemma suggested by the narrator’s description of Father locking the house and the boys breaking the windows at the...

(The entire section is 593 words.)