Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 425 words.)