Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


L. R. Stevens

Second Advisor

R. Mark Benbow

Third Advisor

H. L. Koonce


I wanted to tell a story of a young man who lived one-third of his lifetime only to discover that he didn't exist. The story has three general stages in its development. The first, which is concerned with youth and early adolescence, takes place in a midwestern state. The young man is seen as a member of a family whose family is armless. The father experiences a professional and financial crisis, which precipitates a larger crisis within the family which had not been allowed to develop previously. The family is exposed publicly and privately. The young man, who is the eldest son, begins to emerge as a co-provider. The result of the crisis is that their pragmatic life becomes untenable. They decide to move west to California without resolving the underlying conflicts of the material crisis: the demand for competence, the need for knowledge and acceptance of self, and the importance of resilient and tenacious love. The middle stage of development is concerned with transition. It is the longest portion of the story. The family voluntarily separates to accomplish their purpose -- reestablishment in California. The eldest son accompanies his father to California as a manservant. The two younger sons stay in the Middle West with their mother. It is in the sons that the effect of the family conflicts are registered. They are the indices of change, especially the eldest. The family is separated for over a year. The father finally succeeds in establishing himself so that the family can be reunited. But the period of time this takes measures a simultaneous inner disintegration of the family. The father finds it impossible to resolve the kinds of conflicts which the crisis exposed. The eldest son is confused by the experiences he has in this transition stage. The principle issue for this son is the problem of masculinity which leads into questions of self, of identity. The youngest son is so frightened by his perceptions that he denies them. Only the mother and the second son are relatively unaffected because of their qualified virtue and strength. This disintegration ultimately defeats the father's success. In the third state the family is reunited. But, it is a reunion in fact only. Their failure, because of circumstance and inadequacy, to confront the fundamental difficulties they have evaded, becomes even more evident in a context of relative material comfort. The father realizes this, decides he cannot go on, and destroys himself. The eldest son emerges as the single father figure in the family and the inheritor of the psychic equivalents of his father's handicap. The son has a chance to return to the Middle West. But the story ends with the question being posed as to whether they should, could, or must go back. For the eldest son, who is now a young man, the question of going back and of continuing on is posed in a context more threatening than that of merely traversing the land. The story is resolved through the death of the father and the effect of his death on the eldest son. But this resolution represents the exposure of the son to a world and a self which is incoherent. The relationship between father and son has given away, through death, to an internal void in the son who must now clarify his vision of himself and define himself as a man, while resolving the ambiguities which the death of his father has presented. The story ends with a resolution of irresolution and the beginning of another story.


poem, novel, literature


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