Compare and contrast the appearance, mood, and life approach of the fat man and the women in the story. What roles do they play?

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I would say that a very interesting contrast can take place between the fat man and the mother.  The mother is relatively silent throughout most of the story.  She appears inconsolable, and represents the fragmentation that accompanies war, and was certainly present in the First World War.  In contrast, the fat man enters the railroad car with purpose and intent.  He understands the guiding structure and moral order that helps to fully help bring meaning into his own sense of existence.  This transcendent vision is something that he is able to articulate to the indecision and doubt that permeates the car.  When he is done, one actually is able to embrace the fat man's vision of totality.  It is at this moment where we see a quick and sudden role reversal, as the woman asks her question and the man's response is one of inconsolable grief.  In the end, the roles that opened the story are inverted at the story's end, only fragmentation and disorder being the sole constants.

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