Form and Content
During the Labor Day holiday in a small Kansas town, seven lives are disrupted by the arrival of a sensually attractive, indigent young man who performs some cleanup work for a meal. The young man, Hal Carter, carries out the work for “Mrs.” Potts (who is unmarried); the experience of a male presence in her house increases her sense of vitality and gives her a new perspective on the life that she has led as her mother’s aide and, currently, nursemaid. “Mrs.” Potts’s neighbor, Flo Owens, is unsettled by the young man, in whom she sees, first, a threat to the plans that she has for her daughter Madge and, second, the embodiment of her own desire for a man, following a decade of adjustment to her husband’s desertion. Madge is captivated by Hal and finds in him the direction in life that she chooses to take. Her younger sister, Millie, finds her own sense of female maturity awakened by Hal and becomes ready, as a result, to pass from tomboyhood to intellectualism.
The person most dramatically influenced by Hal’s arrival is the town’s schoolteacher, Rosemary Sydney: She resents Hal for reminding her of her lost youth and unsatisfied desires, and she is stimulated by her resentment to pressure Howard Bevans, her only marital prospect, into a guarantee of wedlock. Therefore, Howard’s life of easy and unchallenging bachelorhood is ended as a result of Hal’s appearance. One other man, Alan Seymour, is also affected: He loses Madge, who he had assumed would marry him, to Hal. Alan engineers Hal’s flight from town by falsely accusing him of car theft, but Madge subsequently leaves town to follow Hal.
The disruptions of the seven lives...
(The entire section is 684 words.)