(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

At the Diamond County Home for the Aged it is the day of the annual fair, when the elderly men and women set up stands and sell such homemade products as quilts, candy, and peach-stone carvings to visitors from nearby communities. This year, the great day gets off to a bad start. Two of the home’s residents, or inmates—John Hook, a ninety-four-year-old former schoolteacher, and Billy Gregg, a seventy-year-old retired electrician—discover that the home’s porch chairs have had name tags attached, and hereafter each inmate is to occupy only the chair assigned to him or her. This latest action by Mr. Conner, the prefect of the institution, provides an opportunity for protest.

Misunderstandings and misadventures add to Conner’s burden of do-gooding humanitarianism. When Gregg introduces a diseased stray cat onto the grounds, Conner orders Buddy, the prefect’s adoring assistant, to shoot the animal. Ted, a teenage truck driver, knocks down part of a stone wall while delivering cases of Pepsi-Cola for the fair. A pet parakeet belonging to Martha Lucas, the wife of George Lucas, a former real estate salesman, gets loose in the infirmary. When rain threatens to ruin the fair, the inmates take refuge in the community sitting room, where Hook and Conner argue the ideals of an older America of faith and idealism against the theories of scientific determinism and social perfectibility.

Hook, a gentle, meditative man, looks back to the days of...

(The entire section is 537 words.)