Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 322

Greg Sarris offers a story about the conflicting influence of conformity and individuality for American teenagers, complicated by issues of gender, race, and class. The confusion arising from sexual desire motivates Frankie to pursue his dream girl and to lie to everyone, especially himself, about his intentions and emotions. The challenge of establishing friendship between teenagers of different genders is emphasized, as Frankie bows to the peer pressure to consider primarily the opinions of the other boys he hangs out with, even at the expense of harming Caroline, a girl for whom he claims to feel affection. The damage that his hypocrisy causes to her goes even further, as she seems to give up on finding a worthwhile partner and gets caught up in a dangerous situation. The challenges of poverty are on display in the decimated South Park neighborhood, which seem more than simply a setting in which these events unfold—it is a pit from which the teens have not yet managed to climb out of. The author encourages us to question what it takes to triumph over such odds.

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Frankie comes across as a believable, if not always likable, character. The more he wants to belong to the group of posturing, self-aggrandizing boys, the less authentic he seems to himself. At the same time, he pushes those real feelings away for fear of humiliation and even physical harm, as they depend on each other for protection. For Caroline, who is even poorer and is new to the area, there seems to be no comparable safety net. In the shocking conclusion, Frankie realizes how much more precarious her life is than his. Unable to undo the damage he feels responsible for causing, he can only try to redeem himself by keeping her secret from the boys. Whether Caroline will truly end up in a life of prostitution or whether she will be frightened off by her initial encounter remains unclear.

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 247

As Frankie tells his story in his own words, he chatters on and on about sex, family, the gang, and all their concerns. His is generally a beguiling voice, open and frank about his fears and uncertainties; it suggests a shrewd mind in control. His mind is not sophisticated or especially educated, but it is observant, and thus the language of the story works well in carrying the main theme of a young person’s journey to discovery.

The two old people whom Frankie meets during his long afternoon of waiting serve as a kind of chorus. Old Julia and old man Toms say little as they watch Frankie go about his round of time-filling activities, but they reveal their amusement at the folly of youth through their laughter. Precisely what strikes Old Julia as so funny remains unclear, but the adults’ role as tolerant spectators of adolescent problems is clear.

To confine the events of the story to one day, Sarris resorts to a flashback in Frankie’s mind to review his relationship with Caroline. This device allows the touching picture of the two young people playing husband and wife and mocking the banal dialogue of middle-class domestic life. They also play at being Romeo and Juliet, with convincing comic effect. The wholesome appeal of Frankie and Caroline in these scenes emphasizes both the inescapable struggle between the flesh and the spirit that so bedevils Frankie, and the final fall into knowledge of the two innocents.

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Characters