Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gus and Roberta May Earickson come face-to-face with one of American society’s icons of greed, the “giveaway” show. They succumb to the blandishments of the show’s host, Gail Burke, not so much out of cupidity as out of a comfortable innocence. In particular, Roberta May’s perception of the National Honeymoon show is self-deceptively naïve. By keeping her plan to be on the show a secret from Gus, Roberta May protects herself from taking a closer look at what the National Honeymoon show does: exploits its contestants to sell a product. More important, she refuses to consider the idea that she and Gus will have to trade away the intimacy of their private lives for the promised prizes “that will take their breath away.”

When she discovers that she has purchased the prizes at a very high cost, her suffering is made more acute by her realization that she not only cast away “the things that meant so much” to them but also has been duped into making her husband a part of their humiliation. It is at this point in the story that Gus takes charge of the situation and proposes his plan to remedy what appears to be irremediable.

The biblical parallel becomes apparent. Gus and Roberta May, like Adam and Eve, fall from innocence and grace, and like their biblical antecedents, the woman is the weaker vessel and the instrument of the fall. However, Horgan, a Roman Catholic writer, gives the Edenic tale a comic twist and a...

(The entire section is 438 words.)