Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443
The understanding, loving, and forgiving values in Byers’s story are hard to resist, but they are also hard to present without either irony or sentimentality. Byers manages to avoid both, giving the reader characters who are neither perfect nor petulant, neither ironically bitter nor blissfully ignorant, but rather who are complex and believable human beings, simply doing their best, which, Byers seems to suggest, is simply the most human thing anyone can do.
Byers was only in his late twenties when his first collection of stories was published, but critics were so impressed with the technical accomplishment of his stories that they felt it would be patronizing to call him promising, for he had already arrived. He was highly praised for his ability to portray older adults and small children with convincing detail and to reveal character through carefully controlled dialogue.
The secret to the appeal and success of “Settled on the Cranberry Coast” is the straightforward, likable voice of the central character and narrator Eddie. He is presented as a man who makes no apologies for his life, does not complain, is proud of his work, and is straightforward in his dealings with others. Eddie is understanding and nonjudgmental. When one of his colleagues, a math teacher named Jack Patani, marries one of his students, Eddie says that because the girl adored him, gave him good conversation and a nice young body, “it’s hard to argue with that.” At the end of the story, when Eddie takes Rosie’s granddaughter with him to pick up the radiators, he thinks of what Patani had told him, that he had married his student to give himself a few more good times. Eddie thinks the couple is still happy together, has had several nice years, and is looking for more. With a similar expectation, he allows himself to think for the first time about marrying Rosie.
Because Byers likes Eddie, the reader likes him also. He represents that hope in all people that no matter how old they are, life still holds out the promise of fulfillment. The style of “Settled on the Cranberry Coast” is as straightforward as the character of Eddie himself. Although it does make use of the extended metaphor of Eddie’s repairing Rosie’s house to reflect the possibility of his own life being regained, at no time does the story become self-consciously literary. The conclusion of the story, with Eddie standing waiting for the rain to stop, holding Hannah, creates a simple picture of a man who is happy to be on the verge of something, happy that it is never too late for a new beginning.
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