Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 663
The form of this story is that of a monologue in which the speaker’s perceptions and revelations are the primary content. The speaker, or narrator, would seem to be confiding his deepest apprehensions and ambitions, along with much of his life history to an interlocutor of some sort, a visitor or friend, or perhaps even a psychiatrist, because the narrator’s personality is, to say the least, odd. He claims to be conducting “very important lunar hostility studies,” although his methods “may seem a touch light-minded. Have to do chiefly with folded paper airplanes.” Indeed, he confesses to “a frightful illness of the mind, light-mindedness” while at another point he asserts that he is nevertheless “riotous with mental health.”
To a literal-minded reader, the narrator may seem simply to be insane. In the world of this story, however, conventional standards of neither sanity nor fictional form have much relevance. The narrator’s obsession with the moon and its possible negative influence implies inevitably the origins of the word “lunatic.” The implication is more than likely ironic and intentional on the author’s part, for if the narrator is a “lunatic,” he is certainly a brilliant one whose provocative observations cannot be dismissed merely as the product of a deranged mind.
During the course of the disjointed, meandering narration, a coherent autobiography emerges, fragment by fragment. The narrator was, in the late 1940’s, a very promising student at an unnamed university on the Gulf Coast. He was drafted into the United States Army on graduation, however, and sent to Korea. On his return to civilian life, he was hired by his alma mater as an assistant to its president with the primary responsibility of writing “poppycock, sometimes cockypap” for the president’s speeches. He married Sylvia, and they had a son, Gregory. Within a few years he became disillusioned with his work at the university; rearing a child proved to be a further stress; he resigned from his job, and his marriage ended in divorce.
At the time of the story, Gregory is a freshman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Obsessed by his own quest for selfhood, Gregory makes frequent, unexpected telephone calls to his father with questions out of the blue such as “Why did I have to take those little pills?” or “What did my great-grandfather do?” The narrator has meanwhile remarried in middle age, and his current wife, Ann, is pregnant with a child whom they call Gog—a name whose apocalyptic associations seem, in this instance, bizarrely incongruous.
Although it is hard to say what the narrator at this point actually does for a living, a bohemian lifestyle is rather obviously implied. An eccentric freelancer, he devotes his “moonstruck” brilliance to various “little projects” such as the aforementioned lunar hostility studies and the equally eccentric pursuit of “cardinalogy”—a taxonomical study of cardinals of the Catholic Church, “about whom science knows nothing.”
In the concluding section of the story, the narrator addresses his monologue to his unborn child. It appears now that the story also represents the father’s concern for (and need to justify himself to) his offspring—as he says, “You see, Gog of mine, Gog o’ my heart, I’m just trying to give you a little briefing here. I don’t want you unpleasantly surprised.” Thus, to help forestall “unpleasant surprises” in life for his new child, he has presented the truth (whatever that is) of the world as he knows it: the report of a traveler to someone beginning the journey. Beyond human understanding, though, there are realms of terror and fascination that no “reports of travelers” can describe. In the narrator’s mind, the bright, austere face of the moon is equated with the threat and the allure of the unknown mysteries of life; in the climactic next-to-last line of the story, he voices the resolve to protect his child by making “sure no harsh moonlight falls on his new soft head.”
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support