Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Plante’s story is not about homosexuality, although its central characters are a homosexual couple. The relationship between Robert and Alex is simply one of the facts of the story, an important one but not the chief one. The two men’s emotional and physical relationship remains implicit. The evidence of the story is that the Italian country people know the nature of the relationship, but they neither express nor imply judgment. The love relationship between Robert and Alex assumes another dimension, at once more generalized than sex and more personal than questions of social conformity. The story is about its announced topic: work. The idea of work or the image of work is present even when the word does not occur.

When Alex arrives, he says that he will make coffee for the taxi driver, but Robert makes and serves the coffee and brandy—calling attention to the division of work. Alex looks over the house and touches a wet wall; he comments that he and Robert will have to get to work on it. He asks why certain things have not been done, but he praises Robert for the work he has done to get the house ready. Robert replies, “Work?” His question raises the issue of the meaning of the word. Is it work to prepare a home for one’s lover?

The conversation in the tobacco field concentrates on work and reward. One of the farmhands cannot understand how anybody can work and get nothing for it. The widow and members of her family express the...

(The entire section is 432 words.)