(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Barclay Oram is viewed by others, and views himself, as just a servant boy who is subject to moodiness. Much like an adolescent truant, Barclay is seeking to define himself in relationship to the dominant social values and to come to terms with his conflicting allegiances. When he immigrated to the United States from the West Indies in search of an education and a better life, it never occurred to him that he could have attained wisdom informally, without sacrificing the “green intimate life that clustered round his village.” He was seduced by an image of the cultured life, paying little attention to how his pursuit might transform his world or what compromises he would have to make in order to achieve the trappings of success that he coveted. Thus he finds himself, at the age of thirty-six, imprisoned in a steel-tempered city, cut off from his agrarian roots, playing the role of “dutiful black boy among proud and sure white men.”

Throughout his life he gladly has accepted menial jobs as a way to finance his dream. When confronted with his lack of educational preparedness, he spent a year in self-study to make sure that he could pass an entrance exam. Once at the university, however, his studies gave way to his social life. He married the pregnant Rhoda not only because he was enamored of her charm, but also because he did not want her forced to accept menial employment in order to care for their child.

Barclay has been serving as a...

(The entire section is 542 words.)