Analysis of Carson McCuller’s Story, “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud”
“The man said slowly: ‘I love you.’… ‘I did not mean to tease you, Son,’ he said. “Sit down and have a beer with me. There is something I have to explain’” (126).
This is the way in which the old man introduces himself to a young paperboy in Carson McCuller’s short story “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.” He later explains what he means by his comments and informs the boy about his science of love. The man’s science of love is the central focus of the story. The story is not expressly opinionated about the stranger’s science of love. However, a close read of the story will yield that the old man’s thoughts on love in “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud” are chastised by the author and are not meant to be followed. What is clear is that the old man has some very unconventional notions about love. A detailed analysis of the text and of the character of the old man needs to be examined in order to come to the conclusion that his thoughts are not the correct way of thinking about love. The man has done a lot of traveling, but he hasn’t come to the right conclusions about life and love.
The stranger begins his traveling after his wife of “one year, nine months, three days, and two nights” (127) leaves him. However, after reaching a certain point the man begins to deny that he was hurt by the divorce. “When I lay myself down on a bed and tried to think about her my mind became a blank. I couldn’t see her” (129).
Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist born on February 15, 1564. He lived in a time when people perceived the earth as the center of the universe and when people interpreted the scriptures literally. He originally pursued the field of medicine, but later gained an inclination towards mathematics. He worked to develop the scientific method and to explain the world in mathematical terms. Today, ...
It is at this point that he begins to formulate his science of love. The man stops chasing his estranged wife around the country although, as Leo implies, she still could be found. He learns to love things that cannot reject or hurt him. Loving this way will keep him from being hurt again. He completely denies that a woman hurt him. The man is a weak character for this reason. Now he is no longer chasing her but the figurative opposite is occurring! “Suddenly instead of me combing the countryside to find her she began to chase me around in my soul. She chasing me, mind you!” (130).
The man changes his views because he no longer wants to be hurt by her not loving him. Suddenly, chasing her, which he had been doing for quite some time, becomes inconsequential. The old man says as much, “forget those two years, they are unimportant” (129).
When the boy asks if the old man ever found his former wife again the man ignores him. The old man says, “What? What say, Son?” (132).
He has moved onto loving inanimate objects (such as a tree, a rock or a cloud).
These things are not capable of reciprocal love. It is difficult to respect a man (and his theory) that will not take chances and try to embrace something that is capable of embracing him back.
The old man is not a figure that we should respect or feel and reverence for. He is a transient. He offers the young boy a beer. The only thing that could comfort the traveler, when drinking and sleeping with other women failed him, was loving things that could not love him back. His former wife could love him back, but she did not. It is after he realizes this that he changes his views on love. His wife, that he had spent two years trying to find, no longer matters to him. “Forget those two years,” he says, “they are not important” (129).
He forgets everything about her. However, he is not disappointed that he has forgotten. Indeed, he is happier because of it. Instead of remembering her or his love for her, he thinks about abstract notions of love. The old man’s denial of his former wife’s importance to him directly coincides with his newfound beliefs about love. These beliefs include loving everything that cannot hurt him back.
Drinking a love story by Caroline describes a life of an alcoholic daughter of rich parents. Excessive wealth, love and carelessness from her parents caused her to adopt life threatening habits. She later on started consuming alcohol. She indulged in alcoholism so much that her life was completely devastated. Caroline describes in details the bad outcomes of excessive consumption of alcohol. One ...
Leo and the men in the bar do not think very highly of the old traveling man. Leo and the bar represent the ‘everyman’. They are average people’ soldiers, mill workers and a café owner. The men in the bar are not rude and obnoxious. They are simply working class people that the reader can relate to. It is only at the very end of the story that Leo will even say anything not completely negative about the old man, simply saying that he has done a lot of traveling.
Leo is the owner of the coffee shop and a key figure in the story. After hearing an explanation of the science of love he reacts very strongly to the old man and his beliefs. At first Leo listens to what the old man has to say. He is not quick to pass judgment. Indeed, he does not laugh with the other men when the man first tells the boy that he loves him. He informs the man that he cannot serve alcohol to the paperboy simply by saying, “He is a minor” (126) and not by losing his temper. He acts calmly and rationally at the start of the story. This is important because it shows that he is not just a jaded man who constantly loses his temper.
As the old man begins to tell his story Leo becomes more and more agitated. Leo has probably heard a lot of stories in his days as a café owner. The paperboy was a frequent visitor to the café so he knew Leo well. Leo begins to interrupt whenever the man’s story seems to be gaining momentum. Leo’s skepticism about the science of love help to keep the boy grounded. After the old man first expressly mentions his science Leo has an outburst. “With sudden anger he balled up a dishcloth he was holding and threw it down hard on the floor. ‘You draggle-tailed old Romeo!’” (130).
Leo referring to the man as a draggle-tailed Romeo is a particularly important quote. Leo believes that the old man is an unrealistic dreamer. Leo, a hardworking realist, wants to make sure that this traveling dreamer’s views do not get imprinted into the mind of the boy. After the old man explains that he hasn’t fallen in love with another woman yet Leo’s response is “Well well well”. This is Leo saying, “see I told you so” to the young boy. Leo’s place in the story is to rebuke the man’s science by interrupting. Leo helps make the reader come to the conclusion that the old man is not a role model.
The structure of a story is the main key which provides a better understanding and insight analysis to the reader. The elements of structure are time, setting, and character. Each individual element shapes the world of a story, and outlines the values or information which the writer is trying to the readers. In the articles!" Boys!" and! SSOrientation!" we can see totally different structures. By ...
The story ends with Leo talking to the paperboy about what they had just heard. Leo is not as upset as he was when the traveler was in the coffee shop. However, Leo does not change or alter his behavior after hearing about the science of love. If the author wanted the science of love to be followed, then Leo would have dramatically changed at the end of the story. Leo does not quit his job, say he loves the paperboy, or otherwise dramatically alter his lifestyle. The character of Leo is vital towards understanding the backwards ideas of the old man.
The traveler repeats many times that he has founded a “science of love”. This phrase is particularly important when one considers the definition of science. Webster’s dictionary defines science as a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested using the scientific method. Love is an emotion that cannot be tested or proven. Thus it is very much in opposition to the logical thinking of science. There is no way the man can prove or measure how much he loves a rock, the boy or his ex-wife. The man talks about buying a goldfish and then loving it. However, there is no way to test or prove if he really does love the goldfish and to what extent. By calling his views a science the old man loses credibility to the thoughtful reader.
As stated earlier, the man in the story only loves things that cannot love him back. He “plays it safe” by never loving anything that will reject him. This is a cowardly way of living life. Even his latest step, telling the boy that he loves him, is not very bold. The paperboy is young and naïve. He listens to what the old man has to say without laughing. This is why the old man approaches the boy and not Leo or one of the other men at the bar. He is trying to play upon the weak and impressionable.
Although the old man seems to be happy, it is a naïve happiness that is present because of his shallow views. Loving things that cannot love him back may lead to happiness but it is unfulfilling. He still has yet to find anything that is capable of embracing him back.
The very last step in the old man’s science is to love a woman. Love between a man and a woman is a basic societal norm. Most people fall in love and get married sometime in their lives. The old man will almost certainly never fall in love with a woman again. He is already in his sixties and doesn’t seem to be anywhere near allowing himself to fall in love with a woman any time soon. He will continue to protect himself from being hurt again, losing the respect of the reader.
I. Bernard Malamud Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) was born in Brooklyn, New York. From 1932 to 1936 he studied at the City College of New York, where he received his bachelor's degree. From 1937 to 1938 he was a student at the Columbia University. In 1942 he received his Master's degree. From 1940 to 1948 he taught evening classes at the Erasmus High School, the same High School he went to from 1928 ...
Carson McCuller’s presents an interesting character in his short story “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.” At first observation it is difficult to come to a conclusion about the mysterious traveler. However, after analyzing the story thoroughly, the flaws of the man and his science become apparent. He denies his hurt over his divorce and because of this he is not capable of loving anything that can possibly reject him. Leo also does not respond well to the man’s thoughts, indicating that this science is not the answer for the average everyday man. A complex character is presented in this short story. This character’s thoughts are not meant to be taken literally. After reading this story one should not go out and start embracing pieces of glass, music boxes or shadows in the night. The science of love is flawed.