Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Each of the characters in “The Pedersen Kid” seeks to create a feeling of inner springtime to battle against the bleak physical environment and the empty prospects of living in a loveless household: Big Hans with his pornographic pictures, Pa with his whiskey, Jorge’s mother with her diligent maintenance of domestic organization and routine, and Jorge with vague dreams of prowess and freedom. Their secret lives are also the sole source of self-worth in the story, for intimacy and compassion are utterly absent. (One profoundly revealing memory of Jorge’s is of his father’s destruction of a favorite picture book, which had been a rare secret pleasure in his life.) It is no wonder, then, that Jorge immediately resents the appearance of the frozen child because the ministrations he earns represent a quality of attention that Jorge himself has never enjoyed. (Pa smacks his son for waking him, and Jorge silently blames the Pedersen Kid; he consoles himself with the thought that the naked boy’s penis is smaller than his own.)

With the resuscitation of the frozen child comes the bringing to life of his awful tale, and each of the eventual “rescuers” accepts the truth of it—and thus, the responsibility this occasions—for very private reasons, Big Hans, who has saved the boy, probably has a special stake in the version of reality he offers because it vindicates and extends his sudden ascendancy; Pa goes along out of spite for Big Hans, and out of fitful anger over the discovery of his hidden store of whiskey; Jorge is simply bullied into the plot by the men, but his disdain for the Pedersen...

(The entire section is 660 words.)