LITERATURE: Promise of Rain – Master of Subtlety

Wow.  Just caught the drift of Taylor’s genius at showing character.  In using the first person pov of the father describing his relationship with his son, there is an unreliability about the narrator not necessarily that he is hiding something within his words–that’s there too–but that his perception of the his son is way off from what we are experiencing.

The final pages here, the same scenario of Hugh desperately hoping for rain so that his reading will be broadcast instead of the game.  The sun disappears and a crash of thunder brings the anticipation to a resolution:

Hugh galloped across the hall into the living room and commenced disconnecting the batteries from the charger and hooking them up to the radio.  The rest of us followed, just as if there were no other room in the house we could have gone to. 

Why this wording? Why do they think they need to pretend? They should have been leaping in glee for Hugh!

Through the loudspeaker the voice of Hugh Robert Perkins began with some introductory remarks…

Here the father refers to his son as Hugh Robert Perkins; this directly relates to Hugh’s often referring to his parents by their formal names and we wonder why the father has chosen this way of putting it.

Hugh never once looked around from the radio(…) The storm and static got worse every second and he didn’t even try to improve the reception.

Hugh was listening closely, as he expected his family would be doing.

Toward the very end, I saw his mother raise her eyebrows and tighten her mouth the way she does when she’s about to cry, and I shook my head vigorously at her, forbidding it.  I knew what she was feeling well enough; we were all feeling it: Poor boy had endured uncertainty, had for days been pinning his hopes on the chance of rain, and now had to hear himself drowned out by the static on our old radio.  I thought it might be more than flesh and blood could bear.

Not only does the father assume that everyone is feeling sorry for the boy, and that Hugh is embarrassed and upset–about which he turns out to be wrong–he dissuades his wife from sympathizing with what even he considers a tough thing to go through.

When Hugh jumps up in excitement at the end of the reading, the father realizes that Hugh somehow heard it all and was proud, not embarrassed. He also feels the growing gap between them.  Hugh sees it too, and as always, he puts himself down likely because to do so keeps his father from doing it.

We see the separation as Hugh grants himself the freedom from the burden of his family’s expectations.  I am thinking that what Hugh was searching for in the mirrors was not how handsome or whatever he was, but what was wrong with him that didn’t measure up. 

The final paragraph is the most telling of the story. The narrator didn’t get it and he never will. The irony of the last statement and the narrator’s assessment of the nature of the episode and relationships is priceless.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Promise of Rain – Master of Subtlety

  1. Creechman says:

    We probably read more into a writer’s intention than he ever dreamed, trying to make a deadline.

    Didn’t sound that deep to me. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. susan says:

    You’re right about the writer’s intention, Mark. I feel that some of it slips through without his even realizing as he writes. And yes, some of it is just making more of it than what it is. But I see Taylor’s style bringing out such conflicts within the characters that I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. Otherwise, since these are character driven, the stories would not mean much.

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