Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One major theme in Bobbie Ann Mason’s work is the effects of rapid social change on ordinary people. “Residents and Transients” concerns the conflicts that arise when the main character must make the decision to move on or stay, to be a transient or a resident. In her twenties, Mary had been a transient, living in a commune in Aspen and backpacking through the Rockies. Now she and Larry are residents, content to live in the same town where they grew up. They appreciate the land and the comfort of familiar territory in a slower-paced world. Stephen is a transient, eager to move on to new challenges. He is not originally from Kentucky and has no particular ties to the area. Mary’s parents, former residents, are now transients, having given up their home and belongings to move to Florida in retirement.

In describing characters, Mason focuses on their attitudes toward money and security. Larry is a conservative person, born in the area, settled and comfortable. He plays Monopoly seriously, carefully pushing a little iron token around the game board. He moves cautiously, whether he is eating french fries or working on the teeth of a hemophiliac. He is conservative in other ways, saving water in his office by installing a switch to cut off the water so that it does not run constantly.

Mary’s family has been conservative. Her grandmother buried money in the backyard and saved ten thousand dollars from her Social Security checks during the...

(The entire section is 478 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Change and Transformation
In an interview with Albert Wilhelm, Bobbie Ann Mason maintains that ‘‘Literature is principal ly...

(The entire section is 635 words.)