Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This complex story traces the ancient pattern of the journey in parallel narratives, one about the seeker, Boney Benson, and another interwoven narrative about the process of discovering truth through fiction-shaping. Partially, it is a traditional coming-of-age story, for the shift from listener to teller completes the artist’s passage into manhood, and in the writing of the story he is able to shed the ghosts of his memory that threaten to strangle his power of expression. The figure of Boney, whose very name holds a foreboding of mortality, and the shape of light he must follow against reason reveal the story’s true message.

Boney has been touched, poisoned, or made crazy by the light. Once he is converted to the light he no longer belongs to the world. He lives apart from the rest of the town. As a “follower” of the light, he must abandon everything else and look to the light alone for meaning in his life.He had to give himself wholly, unafraid, surrendered to it. He had to leave things behind . . . and this was his life, bearing, suffering the found-out meaning of what he was involved in, haunted by it, grieved by it, but possessing it—and watching it continue to grow, on and on, into deeper and larger meaning.

The Christian parallels both in pattern and in language are so strong that they become the real center of the story. In this light, the initiation pattern is subsumed into the conversion experience.

Just as...

(The entire section is 589 words.)