Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"An aristocrat was riding down the street in his carriage. He ran over my father.”
Thus begins Donald Barthelme’s complex, fragmented presentation of the narrator’s supposed quest to find this aristocrat. But once the narrator finds the coachman, Lars Bang, the reader must question if Lars’s story is true. Lars clearly blames the father, saying he is a “madman” who attacked their horses. Even more, we must inquire if any aspect of the “story” is actually intended as conventional fiction. As one character says: “Lars is a bloody liar.” Is the whole story a lie?
One of the questions the reader must ask is, whose father is being described: Does the author mean to present an actual character? Or is a generic father type on view here? A weeping man is described:
Tears falling. Tears falling. Tears falling. More tears. It seems that he intends to go farther along this salty path. The facts suggest that this is his program, weeping. He has something in mind, more weeping.
Yet the narrator is often uncertain whom he is seeing.
But perhaps it is not my father weeping there but another father. Tom’s father, Phil’s father, Pat’s father, Pete’s father, Paul’s father.
Sometimes he also wonders why he himself is there.
But if it is not my father sitting there in the bed weeping, why am I standing before the bed in an attitude of supplication?