Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 194

In this story, Frank O’Connor is basically concerned with presenting a wasted life. He is especially concerned that despite a promising, bright, idealistic beginning, a person such as Terry Coughlan can allow something inside himself to die. The tragedy is that Terry, once interested in the nobility of human life and thought, can have reached the point where he is drinking himself to death. O’Connor shows clearly the horror of what life can do to certain individuals. The young Parisienne has entered into prostitution in order to earn a living; Terry Coughlan consorts with the lowest prostitutes rather than marry a good woman and rear a family.

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A second tragedy that accompanies Terry’s disintegration as a person is that Ted Magner is forced to witness the downfall of his best friend. Magner is helpless; there is nothing he can do to turn Terry around. Magner realizes this inability a number of times in the story when he seriously considers confronting Terry about his life situation. People such as Terry “stand or fall by something inside themselves,” and no one else can help them, no matter how much they may wish to.

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