(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sergius O’Shaugnessy has tried to live entirely by his own lights, to establish the time of his time. Sergius is a sexual adventurer, a man of action asserting his manhood. He has even established a bullfighting school in Greenwich Village. He is a loner, living on the fringes of society, refusing to conform, and behaving like an artist, which means abiding by his own code and creativity.

Sergius has come by his identity the hard way. He is an orphan who grew up in a Catholic orphanage. To make himself, he has had to jettison not only the teachings of traditional religion but also allegiance to institutions of any kind. He lives in the moment, free of guilt (he claims) and any emotional baggage. His life is only as stable as his own stamina; his truths are the product of experience. He recognizes no authorities or limitations, except the ones he imposes on himself.

Sergius’s conception of himself is challenged by Denise Gondelman. She is bright, Jewish, and full of the psychiatric jargon that puts off the hipster, who sees her as the typical intellectual Jew. She uses words to type people and to assert her superiority. She is obviously dissatisfied with her conventional boyfriend, and she is attracted to the nonconformist, belligerent Sergius. They become enmeshed in a love-hate affair.

Denise confesses that she has never had an orgasm. She doubts that Sergius would find her a good lover, but he takes her admission of...

(The entire section is 543 words.)