Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 550

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...

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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, they leave because it seems that nothing is happening. When they finish the day and go to bed, they do so knowing only that tomorrow will be another day just like the present one was.

The writer also attempts to convince readers that his depiction of modern life is accurate for everyone. The moral of the story is not so much that Mr. and Mrs. Baby have pointless, meaningless lives as it is that many readers also have similarly pointless, meaningless lives. By giving almost no identifying qualities or unique personality traits to the two characters, Strand makes them into versions of Everyman for those living just behind McDonald’s somewhere in the suburbia of contemporary America, where everyone is homogenized as a baby in a world with no emotions.

“Mr. and Mrs. Baby” is not meant to be read as asserting that life has no meaning. Rather, Mr. and Mrs. Baby consciously and continuously choose not to experience any meaningful event, trying not to express any feelings. They remain content to let contemporary society take care of them, with entertainment for diversion and a sense of total acceptance of pointless lives, so long as their physical needs are met by technology and its concomitant cultural homogenization.

In the last section of the work, the author makes his point explicit: “Now, at day’s end, the Babys slip naked into bed, their limbs overcome with weariness, their minds dimming, giving way to the power and grandeur of nothingness, the silent ohs and ahs of oblivion.” The couple has come full circle, because their day has been described by many of the same words. Their lives are weary; there is truly no grandeur to the nothingness; and oblivion dictates only “ohs” and “ahs” that cannot be heard.

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