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In The Gloaming: Understanding

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 time of transition; the ending of the long mundane day, entering into the excitement of the unknown. Alice Elliott Dark’s collection of ten short stories titled “In the Gloaming: Stories” chronicles “”the distraction of human love” in its many guises. These stories especially focus on the complexity of the relationship between parents and their adult children. The need to connect with others seems threatened at times by how little understanding we truly have of one another” (Miksanek). This is consistent to the theme of “In the Gloaming.” In this short story, Alice Elliott Dark portrays the rekindling and strengthening of the bond between a mother and her son. These two proverbial strangers are brought back together by a challenging tragedy. This is clearly a story of growth; they spend the last moments they have together getting to know and understand one another.

“In the Gloaming” powerfully embodies the idea that often times it takes serious and sometimes ominous situations, in this case, mortality, for one to realize they know nothing about the person whom they should be most closely connected. It took Laird dying of AIDS for both he and his mother to have the sudden yearning and passion to learn and understand each other so intimately.

Following Laird’s becoming sick, he began hiding, emotionally, behind layers of irony and clever remarks, and hiding physically from life by going into a “self-imposed retreat, complete with a wall of silence and other ascetic practices that kept him busy for several weeks” (97). It wasn’t until one evening when Laird and his mother were alone after dinner that he became inclined to talk with her, honestly and openly. His sudden candour came during the gloaming. “The magical period between light and darkness…the time between the fear of ensuing darkness and the excitement of the stepping into the unknown; the ending of the day’s long work and entering into a magical world that lies on the edge of mundane” (Herod).

It is in this setting, in the gloaming, that the mood is set for this story through the dialogue between Laird and his mother: “He gave her a smile, then looked at her searchingly. ‘I always thought it hurt you somehow when the day was over, but you said it was a beautiful time because for a few moments the purple light made the whole world look like the Scottish Highlands on a summer night.’ His mother replies, ‘yes. As if all the earth were covered with heather'” (98). The dialogue and setting set the mood of the story while the pattern of the characters’ behaviour develop the story.

One might think that the protagonist of this story is Laird as the situation revolves around him, however, Laird is the antagonist while his mother, Janet, is the protagonist. Alice Elliott Dark has done this to link the connection between what seems like a selfless mother wanting to be closer to her son, and a mother who enjoys her son more now that he is an invalid.

Janet’s enjoyment eventually becomes an obsession. She lives for the precious moments of connection with her son and begins to actually sleep in later and count the minutes to when the sun goes down. Janet soon comes to the realization that “Laird had been the love of her life”(105). He was, in his adulthood, providing her with the same comfort that he did as a child. Through his loss of ability to enjoy life, and subsequently their newfound close connection, she consequently regains her ability to again enjoy her life. Paradoxically, in a sense, she has thrown her life away because of this newfound connection, living only for the evenings when they unite.

Janet loses her connection with Laird just as she regained her connection: with the words “in the gloaming.” The last evening they spend together is spent in silence until he says “in the gloaming,” gloaming sounding almost like “gloomy.” Ironically, he dies that evening during the gloaming. “In the Gloaming” is a powerful and poignant portrayal of a mother and her son, brought together by a personal tragedy, who begin to reconnect, with necessary urgency. The eventual relationship between Janet and her son is one of comfort. Janet becomes fixated on her time spent with him, never having connected with anyone as she has with Laird. Janet gained what many people do not: a complete understanding and union with someone whom she is so closely related.

Works Cited

Dark, Alice Elliott. “In the Gloaming.” Modern Stories in English. 4th Ed. Eds.

W.H. New and H.J. Rosengarten. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Education Canada Inc., 2001. 96-112 Herod, Brian. The Gloaming: The Magic of Story. 2002. February 28 2002 .

Miksanek, Tony. “In the Gloaming.” Rev. of In the Gloaming. Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. Literature Database. 44. January 2002. February 28 2002 .

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