Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 308
Although he has not sought the literary limelight, Louis Auchincloss is considered one of America’s premier living authors. Because of his writing accomplishments, which now include thirty novels and seventeen short story collections, Auchincloss has earned the honor of being named a "Living Landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2000. And in 2005, President George W. Bush presented Auchincloss with the National Medal of Arts, the country’s highest honor for an artist.
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Published in the 2007 edition of The Best American Short Stories, “Pa’s Darling” is one of Auchincloss’s more recent short stories. Its characters and themes explore an issue present throughout Auchincloss's work: the lives of the rich. In the story, a female protagonist, Kate, reflects on her life as she ponders her relationship to her father, Lionel Hemenway, who has recently passed away. Kate acknowledges that most people considered her to be her father’s favorite child. However, she also knows that her father’s affection remained, for the most part, on the surface. He praised her in public, but his remarks always carried with them a strong caustic undertone. No matter how hard she tried to please her father, Lionel Hemenway found some way to humiliate Kate.
The characters in "Pa's Darling" are lawyers and judges, people who attend Ivy League schools, live in well-to-do neighborhoods, and mix only with peers from the upper echelons of society. Their challenges have nothing to do with money and the basic elements of survival. But like everyone else, they do have to confront problems in building, maintaining, and understanding what is meaningful in their lives. Some of the primary questions that are asked in this particular story deal with love. What is love? Do some people love in different ways than others? Kate’s quest, in particular, is to comprehend how her father loved her.