Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 356
Jack Finney published the science fiction story "Of Missing Persons" in March of 1955 in Good Housekeeping, the year after he published his most famous novel, The Body Snatchers.
"Of Missing Persons" is told in the first person by an overworked New York banker, Charley Ewell. Charley is unhappy with his job, with his hobbies, and with his life. He meets a man in a bar who tells him that the proprietor of Acme Travel Agency can provide him an escape to a Utopian world known as Verna, if Charley is worthy. Charley, apprehensive but desperate for a change, goes in search of the mysterious opportunity.
The agent at Acme sizes Charley up after some veiled hints and presents him with the agency's "little joke," a folder advertising the colony of Verna. Charley is swept away by the beauty of the landscape and by the expressions of contentment on the colonists. He pays $11.17, all he has on him, for a ticket to Verna. He goes to the Acme Bus Depot and is taken to a barn with others, who are told to wait in the barn. Convinced it is all a trick, Charley leaves the barn, only to be blinded right after by a brilliant flash of light that covers the structure. When the light subsides, he reenters the barn to find everyone gone. When he returns to the city and the travel agency, the proprietor hands him his $11.17 back with barely a word.
Charley ends his narrative the way he began, only this time it is not the man at the bar speaking about the Folder. It is Charley, encouraging an undefined audience to go in search of the Folder, to believe, and not to turn away from the chance: "[Y]ou won't ever get a second chance," Charley says. "I know, because I've tried. And tried. And tried."
Finney uses Charley to explore the loneliness of urban life in the 1950s. At a time when big business was growing, providing for the creation of middle men like Charley, Finney idealizes a quieter and more rural time in American history as a contrast to capitalistic priorities.
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