“The Cave” by Jean McCord teaches us that we should be individuals and value other people’s lives, which is a very important lesson in life. McCord combined irony, a believable main character developed throughout the story, and an excellent writing style to produce her short story. This short story is about a boy named Charley and a bum named George. Charley met George one day while running and liked him. The next week, Charley found an entrance to a cave, but he did not realize it was George’s home. Charley told his gang about it, and they wanted it for their clubhouse.
Charley went down the entrance, explored the cave and realized that it was George’s cave. When he got back up to the gang, he said it was a worthless cave to discourage them from wanting to explore the cave. The gang did not quite believe him. When they saw a fawn statue that George had given him, they asked about it. In order to avoid further questions about the cave, Charley ran home, upset that he had allowed them to suspect him. After that, Charley left the gang and began visiting George regularly. George liked to carve statues of famous people into the walls of his cave.
He tried to recruit Charley to become an artist. During Charley’s final exam session in spring, Charley had no time to visit George. When summer came, he could finally go see George. Instead of finding George, Charley found his former gang who had smashed all of the statues. Charley got angry and fought with Pat, the leader. Charley got badly beaten and lost. Then to get even with his former gang, he decided to join the River Rats, the toughest gang around. He was determined to fight his way to the top of that gang and then go fight Pat again. That’s the plot line of “The Cave”.
However, there is more to a story than the plot. Another important element that was used in this story was the irony. Charley was part of a gang to begin with, but when he met George, he learned how to be an individual and make his own decisions. “There was no real reason except I thought I’d try being an individual for a change, instead of just one of a group who all did and thought the same things” (121). He learned that he did not need to always be part of a group. It is all right to be different from everybody else. “Then I stayed away from the gang for a while.
I’d see the fellows in school since we were in the same classes, but I didn’t go to the clubhouse, nor join them at the drugstore like I always had” (121). This is the first instance of Charley’s showing individuality. Charley was beginning to develop an admiration for George and his approach to life. “He was a pretty smart old buzzard, and he seemed to know some secret about life. What I mean is, he had kind of come to terms with life, and he had made all the conditions” (121). Charley admired George for being such an individual and living life on his own terms.
George made Charley feel good about himself. “I liked being with George. He didn’t expect anything of me like my Dad always did, and by now, I was getting pretty fond of the old guy” (121-122). Charley had learned many things about being an individual; however, in the end he decided to just forget all of that and join another gang. That was extremely ironic because he had gone full circle from wanting to be part of a gang, to wanting to be an individual, and back again to wanting to be part of a gang. Individuality is not all Charley learned from George, though.
In addition to respecting George’s individuality, Charley developed a respect for George’s art and his devotion to it. Charley was honored when he thought George wanted to teach him how to carve. “‘You ever have a hankering to do a little carving? ‘” (122). Carving is what made George happy and what he wanted to spend his time doing. “‘It’s a way of life, Charley my boy. The only way; creating things. Let others build the cars and roads and wooden houses'” (122). When Charley realized his former gang had destroyed all of George’s artwork in his cave, he could not believe that such a tragedy had happened.
To do a thing like that to destroy an old man’s dream of immortality to tear up what he called his Passport to Paradise well they’re going to pay for it, all right” (123). Charley’s respect for George and his art was very believable in this story. Having a realistic character is important to me because it allows me to get into the story more than if the character had seemed weird or unrealistic. Charley was very realistic. He had parents who cared about him and had expectations for him.
Every time it looked like I was going to stick my nose out the door, either my Mom or Dad pounced on me and made me get to studying” (122). McCord developed Charley’s personality and characteristics very well. However, just because the author has an interesting plot and a good main character does not mean the story will succeed. Another necessary element of a good story is an exemplary writing style. I thought McCord did a very good job of this. She started the story in the middle of the plot line. The story was one big flashback, and I like it when authors do that.
Foreshadowing was not a main element of her style. However, she used it in this line, “the toughest gang of all live down on the river flats and call themselves the River Rats. We all stay away from them, much as we can. The River Rats are well, I just wouldn’t have wanted to belong to them, not then” (116). This foreshadows that later in the story he probably will want to become part of them. McCord also made good use of dialogue, even though it was sparse in the story. Also, McCord’s use of an open-ended conclusion forced the reader to develop a plausible ending for himself.
McCord’s style made the story a lot more realistic for me and made me enjoy it a lot more. “The Cave” is a very good story about individuality and respect for other people’s lives. This story is considered a classic because it teaches a very important lesson about life. People should learn to think for themselves and respect others who are different from them. People do not have to conform to a group. McCord was able to relate this messages in “The Cave” extremely well. Her story gets the message across very well by incorporating it into a very well written story involving irony, a believable character, and an excellent writing style.