Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator tells this story some thirty years after the events described. There is a bittersweet irony in his tone of voice. Apparently he represents the point of view of the townspeople of Thornton. His story is based on the strands provided by the various storytellers with access to the facts of the case. Although the narrator is sympathetic toward Aunt Munsie, he recognizes that her vision of the future was illusory and self-defeating.

The little wagon that Aunt Munsie pulls through the town functions as a symbolic object. It is shaped like a coffin, and the author writes that she pulls the tongue of the wagon as if it “were the arm of some very stubborn, overgrown white child she had to nurse in her old age.” The wagon represents the death of her dream to reclaim her vital maternal role. It is like a burden she drags through town to remind people of who she was and what she has lost. She would give anything to take care of Thad and Will if they returned to Thornton, but that role has been lost, and at the end of the story Aunt Munsie is forced to give up her dream.