Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although “National Honeymoon” takes a satiric look at a uniquely American foible, the story is told without rancor. Paul Horgan has an accurate ear for the patter of the professional host and an understanding of audience manipulation. Gail Burke, the host of National Honeymoon, is a familiar figure. The happy hyperbole of praise and the implied self-love in Burke’s favorite invocation, “People, do you love it?” reveal the confident pitchman at work. This deft portrait is biting, but it has none of the vitriolic quality present in most satire. Instead, Horgan chooses to set his characters in comic contrast to one another, the overly naïve newlyweds from New Mexico and the mainstream values they represent with the glib host of the radio show, the minion of coarse Hollywood hucksterism. These characterizations could easily have been a bit too pat, but all the characters reveal human weaknesses that endow them with a greater humanity than the stereotypes they are in danger of becoming. Even Burke has a damaged humanity that raises him above being merely despicable. Though it is obvious that the Earicksons become caught up in a process that overwhelms them, it is not so obvious that Gail Burke is inextricably enmeshed in the shallow banalities of the show he hosts. When Gus and Roberta May return the prizes, Burke becomes confused and angry and suffers a loss of confidence. He is humiliated when his underlings sense his vulnerability, and he becomes the recipient of their mocking laughter. Although he gets his “just deserts,” he becomes a pitiable figure rather than a convenient scapegoat. Thus, Horgan reveals himself as a writer with a compassionate rather than a sardonic view of the human condition.