Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pa's Darling

As I have already suggested, I was always supposed to be Pa's favorite daughter. He made a good deal of me, particularly before company; he like to show me off --- he was proud of my good looks, of what he called my "pale-faced, raven-haired beauty." But he was like a financial magnate showing off a master painting he has just acquired, inwardly confident that the owner of the picture is superior to both the work and its artist. There was always a distinct vein of sarcasm in his ebullient mirth.

Louis Auchincloss' short story Pa's Darling tells Kate Hemenway's view of her past, "to make a probably vain attempt to get it off my chest." She speaks of the way her father treated life, the arts, his wife, and people in general. She then speaks of her first husband of whom she met through her father and then of her second husband whom she discovers is much like her own father. She draws parallels between these men in her life and compares them to the relationship she saw between her own parents. And following the death of her father, Kate discovers a secret of her parents that she had always suspected. This secret along with her husband's prolonged mourning of the passing of her father leads her to suspect that history is repeating itself.

The world might admire power and money, but it also esteemed the arts. By associating himself with Pa, might he not borrow a few rays of Pa's aura? To Dicky appearance and reality were the same. If he looked as if he had everything, why, then he had everything. It was why he was perfectly happy. I had again been married to my father.

Although the characters were not overly developed, the story was exactly as the author introduced: an assessment of a character's past following the death of her father. Taking an assessment of our past is something we all tend to do when an event changes our course in life. Pa's Darling was an interesting short story that I enjoyed.

"Pa's Darling" by Louis Auchincloss (from The Yale Review) from The Best American Short Stories 2007 edited by Stephen King with Heidi Pitlor

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