This short story addresses the complexity of human nature. We see that the father in the story has awareness and he is proud of not drinking routinely. We also know that he is aware of the consequences of his drinking. To go on furthermore, we see how the mother uses her son and what she does to try and foil the father. When we look at the father, we see how he responds to his neighbor’s death, what the neighbor represented to him and how that tells us about the father’s character.
We see that he has a Christian belief and that one should do unto others. He feels that he is expected to go, and he also seems to enjoy funerals. When we look at what happens to the son, we see the father’s reaction to the drink and he does not assume responsibility. He is embarrassed by what happened and his biggest regret is that he missed the fun because he had to see about his son. He already knows what drinking does. The son doesn’t know when his father says, “never again”. The son didn’t know if he was talking about him or the alcohol, which indicates that there is not a firm answer to whether or not the father drinks again.
We have an innocent young man telling the story and he is reacting to what is around him, which leads us to the theme. The theme of this short story is one may intentionally harm themselves to help that of a family member. When the mother is lying beside her son and calling him her ‘guardian angel’, there is a sense that she knows that she is reliant on outside influences (God) to help her when it comes to her husband’s drinking. She knows that she herself is helpless and can do nothing to stop him from drinking. She too is as powerless as her husband when it comes to his drinking. Which may be the point the author is trying to make.
Though alcohol is prevalent and accepted in society, the author may be suggesting that it should be treated with caution. Something that the son now knows after drinking for the first time. Rather than alcohol having a positive effect on the individual, the author may be implying that if not taken in moderation, not only will alcohol change an individual, but it will have a negative effect on an entire family too. Which seems to be the case for the family in the story. With the mother struggling in life due to her husband’s drinking. At no stage in the story is there a sense that she can trust her husband when it comes to his drinking.