Isolation is one of the main themes of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This theme is exemplified in the character of Edgar, who is mute and thus cut off from verbal communications with the people in his world.However, Edgar’s isolation is deepened when he comes upon what he believes is the secret of his father’s death. He learns this secret from the ghost of his father, which would be difficult enough to explain if Edgar could talk. Since he is mute, it is all but impossible to tell anyone, even his mother, about the apparition that he saw and what he learned from the experience. The story becomes more and more narrow until the end when Edgar is totally isolated from everything and everyone he has ever known. He is completely on his own without even his dogs to turn to. It is in the depths of this isolation that Edgar becomes frantic and makes mistakes that lead to his death.
The theme of coming-of-age also plays a critical part in this story. Edgar is at that pivotal age of fourteen, clearly between childhood and adulthood. At the beginning of the story, Edgar leans very much into the child aspect of his life, totally under the tutelage of his parents and his teachers. He accomplishes easy tasks around the house and farm, does what his parents tell him to do, and rarely has to make critical decisions on his own. After his father dies, however, with the role of paternal head of house vacated, slowly Edgar stretches toward adulthood to fill the position. Though Claude comes into the picture to take on the role, Edgar continues to go through the changes from child to adult as he makes consequential decisions on his own. He confronts the vision of his father and takes in the message that his father offers to him the idea that Claude was the cause of his father’s death. Edgar then gathers clues and confirms his suspicions, taking matters into his own hands to do so. Further exploration into his manhood occurs when Edgar runs away from home and...
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