Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Stone Boy,” the roles of the various members of the family assume important dimensions. The father, clearly the stereotypical masculine presence, takes care of those activities outside the house. Mother and daughter are shown only tending to household tasks. Eugie, almost a man, has begun to assume many of the responsibilities of the father. Arnold’s ties are still more to his mother, though he envies Eugie and unknowingly attempts to assert dominance. Arnold’s attachment to his mother, his continuing need for her, and his subconscious desire to relate to her are as much a motivating factor as is Arnold’s need to assert dominance. That Arnold feels a special sympathy for his mother is made evident by his knowledge of her intense discomfort as she tends to the canning in the kitchen where the heat from the wood stove would be almost unbearable. Sometimes, the reader is told, Arnold would come from out of the shade where he was playing and make himself as uncomfortable as his mother was in the kitchen by standing in the sun until the sweat ran down his body. The fear caused by Arnold’s desire to emulate his father and older brother, while the nine-year-old is still too young to assume the role, causes Arnold to seek out his mother, especially so that he might express his fear and his hostility and receive from her solace and understanding.

The apparent need of a son to assume the role of patriarch, even if it means revolting against the...

(The entire section is 496 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Death is one of the foremost themes in ‘‘The Stone Boy.’’ It is expressed literally in Eugie’s death, but this...

(The entire section is 846 words.)