Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

It would perhaps be pedantic and heavy-handed to insist on extracting too serious a theme from such a delightful and deft story as “Wissler Remembers.” It is more like a series of entertaining snapshots of the pleasures and frustrations of the teaching profession: the opportunities it gives, the restrictions it imposes. Wissler’s deep commitment to and quiet love of his chosen profession is clear throughout the range of his remembrance, from the fullness of a class in full swing to the sadness of conclusion and parting.

Nevertheless, throughout the story there is a recurring motif: the gap between what Wissler thinks, what he wants to say—as he allows the reader into his uncensored mind—and what he actually does say. Early in the story, this problem of communication, or noncommunication, is symbolically and amusingly represented in the episode at the French school. Wissler gives his students a French translation of an American poem and asks them to retranslate it into English. Only five of the twenty-five students even understand the assignment, but he offers a reward to anyone who gets within twelve words of the original. Needless to say, the one effort that Wissler recalls was completely unintelligible.

In the same manner, something happens to Wissler’s own thoughts in the act of translating them into words, particularly with respect to the deeper feelings that he has for his students. His reminiscences are generated by his...

(The entire section is 492 words.)