Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The subtitle to this short story—“A Type of Love Story”—should cause the reader to expect a problematic tale even before the narrative has begun. Russell Banks may be asking the reader to decide, along with his hesitant narrator, Ron, if this strange relationship in any way constitutes love. Certainly that seems to be one of the problems with which Ron continually wrestles, as throughout the story Banks allows his narrator to wander back and forth between a kind of single-minded intensity regarding his attraction to the homely Sarah, and an almost irritating indecisiveness concerning his own motivations.

By focusing his characterizations on two physically opposite types—the handsome Ron and the repugnant Sarah—Banks both questions and subverts the issue of physical attraction in a relationship. In a “typical” love story the idea of opposites attracting, then finding unexpected love, might surely be viewed as romantic; however, here Ron’s continual questioning of his own motivations, coupled with Banks’s constant realistic portrayal of the stark differences between Sarah and Ron, act to refocus this, in other ways, innocent picture of Ron’s and Sarah’s newfound love. As their relationship matures, then begins to unravel, the reader may feel the need to go beyond the issue of looks to find an answer to the characters’ difficulties.

It may be easier to see how Sarah could be attracted to the younger and more handsome...

(The entire section is 511 words.)