Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

It has become a commonplace of criticism to note that Robert Coover considers the world to be a collage of fictions created by human beings. After a while, human beings forget that they have themselves created the fictions, and they act as though the fictions are shaping them and dictating their behavioral patterns. At this point, when the fictions lose their validity and efficacy, the fictions need to be destroyed so that other fictions can be created. Because the world is composed only of fictions, however, a fiction-maker’s only choice is to repeat the past, using the old fictions, but at the same time re-creating them by rearranging them to make them more pertinent to the present time. Thus, the role of the artist is to create new fictional forms out of the old residues. Artists must always be aware, however, that what they are creating is fiction and not an objective view of reality.

In “A Pedestrian Accident,” several fictions are in operation. There is the symbolic substructure of Christian belief. Paul, as apostle, preaching the gospel of Jesus in the hope of everlasting life, whose conversion on the road to Damascus is accomplished in a blinding flash of light, is likened to Paul, the pedestrian, carrying the book, whose conversion is accomplished by a sudden flash of light and a blaze roaring out of the back of his head. (The apostle Paul was beheaded.) In his “Everyman” role, Paul is Adam to Charity’s Eve, as well as Amory...

(The entire section is 437 words.)