Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mark Strand presents two main themes in “Mr. and Mrs. Baby.” First, he wants to show that contemporary life has no plot, little movement, and no meaningful action; hence, his characters, reenacting their daily lives yet once again, perform only the most pointless of activities. Even so, this is the best they can do. Bob and Babe Baby are parodies of late twentieth century man and woman, male and female, husband and wife. They functionally exist in entirely pointless lives, oblivious to any lack of meaning, mobility, experience, and joy; even their attempts to feel pain fail. They remain babies, cared for on every hand by the artificial and technical mechanisms of a society and culture with no emotions, feelings, or values. Like the babies they are, they cannot move into an adult world where they can feel, think, love, hate, even just live their own lives.

They are overwhelmed by banality, by their inability to grow up and to move beyond dependency: When they awaken, there is no discernible difference between being asleep and being awake. When they are together at breakfast, they have no reason to talk—in part, because each already knows what the other one is thinking and, more important, because, being unable to think, they have nothing to say. When they try to think, it is too hopeless a process because they do not know how and, therefore, are only frightened at their attempt. When they try to talk, they mumble clichés. When they go to a party,...

(The entire section is 550 words.)