Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Pete seems to have his life well organized; he is a responsible, highly successful citizen. He has done everything right and is justly proud of the rewards of his hard work. Donald, on the other hand, seems to be a mess. He is something of a hippie, moving from ashrams to other forms of communitarian living. He seems to have little sense of the value of money, often borrowing from others, never paying them back. When he does have a bit of money, regardless of the source, he tends to give it away to the first person who asks for a handout.

Even among his hippie friends, he stands out as childish; they eject him because he cannot function in a way that they are used to. He spills soda on his brother’s beautiful new leather upholstery and seems amazed that Pete is upset over such a meaningless possession. He even wears his clothes inside out, totally unconcerned over his appearance.

However, Pete is showing signs of having something of a midlife crisis, centered principally around the question of what all his work and accomplishments really mean. Tobias Wolff gradually reveals symptoms of the problems Pete is facing. The reader may be surprised to learn that Pete does, indeed, dream about Donald, just as Donald had suspected, which Pete at first denies. The content of the dream is rather startling, as well: Pete mentions that, in the dream, there was something wrong with him, not telling Donald that the problem was that Pete was blind, and that...

(The entire section is 474 words.)