Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 436
“A Walk in the Sun” actually tells two stories, one of the astronaut’s survival effort and the other of her relationship with her sister Karen. It is never implied that Trish is going crazy; Karen is a mirage, appearing somewhat real to Trish, even though she knows that Karen is not really there.
To tell the survival story, Landis neatly interweaves admiration of the scenery, the progress of Trish’s race with the Sun, the difficulties in trekking across the varying lunar terrain, and a few small crises such as foot blisters and equipment failure.
Landis introduces Karen gradually, on the second page of this sixteen-page story; the first mention of her is when Trish asks herself what Karen would have done in this predicament. Two pages later, when the radio fails, she again asks what Karen would have done. It is another two pages later when she first starts talking to Karen. Here again, Landis edges into Karen’s added presence in Trish’s mind; Trish just comments on how beautiful the scenery is. Later, when she sleeps, she dreams of Karen. The next day, her blistered feet bring more thoughts of Karen, who had gone on despite her own blisters. When she misses Tranquility Base, she comments about it to Karen. As the lunar hike continues, Trish talks more and more to Karen, warning her of treacherous footing and asking advice about how to negotiate an upcoming hill.
It is not until halfway through the story that Landis begins to tell us some of the history between Trish and Karen. She would not let Trish be the hike leader and called her a “bratty little pest.” Even the family dog followed Karen around, despite Trish being the one who fed and watered him. However, just in time for the reader to know that Trish is not really losing her mind, she confronts the fact that Karen is long dead, and then Karen vanishes. This bothers Trish, though. She still wants the company of her sister, even knowing that it is imaginary.
The next day, faced with another challenge, she finds that Karen is with her again, chiding and urging her to go on. Later, Trish is in pain and wants to stop, but Karen will not let her. Still later, Trish’s rationality recovers somewhat, and Karen tells her “I’m dead. . . . Let me go.” They discuss Karen’s difficulty in living up to her little sister’s idolatry, then Trish’s subsequent difficulty in growing up with a dead sister. After facing up to these issues, Trish finally says goodbye to Karen.