Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 425
The narrator describes how he became unwittingly infatuated with Archer during the brief time they spent together. He was young, impressionable, and naturally given to infatuation, though he had as yet developed neither a capacity for full-blown sexual passions nor even an understanding of the kinds of friendship that exist...
(The entire section contains 425 words.)
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The narrator describes how he became unwittingly infatuated with Archer during the brief time they spent together. He was young, impressionable, and naturally given to infatuation, though he had as yet developed neither a capacity for full-blown sexual passions nor even an understanding of the kinds of friendship that exist between members of the same sex. He had, however, developed an appetite for worldly, sensual pleasures—one unusually keen in so young a youth, and of a kind that apparently struck Archer as indicative of a proclivity for homosexual love.
The motivations of Archer, however, are not clear. Nothing he does with the boy is clearly improper, but it is clear that he is homosexual, motivated by a paternalistic sentimentality, and manipulative of the young narrator.
This story, like virtually all of Welch’s writing, is evidently largely autobiographical reminiscence. Interestingly, Welch, as a narrator with a clearer, more mature notion of what transpires between Archer and himself, appears to relish the experience and does not suggest that it was in any way injurious. He does not impute questionable motivations to Archer; in fact, he paints him as benevolent and caring, and he depicts his experiences with Archer as wholly enjoyable, at least up to the point at which he vomits and is beaten by his older brother.
As the reader sees the friendship between Archer and the young man gradually develop, the natural tendency may be to question its propriety. Welch handles this aspect of his story carefully. The narrator at age thirteen is not totally ingenuous. At dinner after the skiing expedition, he is aware that Archer is encouraging him to do things he ordinarily should not be doing. Archer offers him a cigar, and “I had the sense to realize that he did not mean me to take one and smoke it there before the eyes of all the hotel.” However, the young man’s awareness is limited. When he massages Archer’s leg, for example, he is impressed by its physicality but does not realize that what impresses him are its sensual qualities, its firmness and sponginess.
Here the young man is ingenuous, and his innocence, along with the way Welch manipulates the action to resemble at many points a sexual encounter, makes the reader expectant of a breaching by Archer of that innocence. It could be said that Welch is almost titillating the reader. From another perspective, however, it can be said that Welch is presenting a tale of first love—one in which boy meets boy, rather than girl.