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An Analysis of the Theme and Plot of "A Long Walk Home"

 

An Analysis of the Theme and Plot of

 A Long Walk Home


Summary of the Short Story

Boccaro’s A Long walk Home is a short story that tells how Jackson, a teen with a delinquent tendency, grows wiser after experiencing a bitter experience with his father. It begins when one morning Jackson is asked to have his father’s car repaired in a garage 18 miles away from their home on condition that when the car is finished, Jackson should pick his father at 4 p.m. since the car requires a few hours to be serviced, after dropping of it to the garage, he watches some movies up to 6 p.m. To avoid his father from getting angry for his being late, Jackson says that it takes long to repair the car without realizing that his father has phoned the garage and knows there’s no problem with the car. Jackson’s lie makes his father angry to himself for his failure to educate his son. So he refuses to get into the car and walks home. This makes Jackson very regretful and decides not to lie to his father ever after. It is a painful experience, but it provides Jackson an essential lesson.

Image credit: https://www.vice.com/en/article/5gjmy8/i-was-assaulted-on-the-street-but-i-still-walk-home-alone-at-night-408
Theme

A Long walk Home conveys the theme that a bitter experience can make one wise. In the story, Jackson is initially shown as a teen who thinks that telling a lie to prevent his father from getting angry about his unpunctuality to pick him up is not a problem. But his father has phoned the garage when Jackson does not appear at 4. So he knows that Jackson lies to him, and this makes him angry. He can accept his being late to pick him up, but he is very disappointed because Jackson lies to him. However, instead of getting angry with Jackson, he punishes himself for believing he has failed to educate Jackson. Rather than getting into the car, he walks home. Seeing his father suffer from physical and emotional pain along the way home, Jackson feels distressing and painful. This experience teaches him not to lie to his father ever after. In short, through Jackson’s bitter experience in this short story, Bocarro shows that a painful experience can facilitate people to grow wiser, as it can effectively prevent people from repeating the same mistake. Experience is indeed an effective teacher.


Plot Type

In A Long walk Home, Bocarro employs a linear or dramatic plot. Boccaro never uses any flashback in the story. The actions in the story flow chronologically from the events occurring in the morning to the events taking place in the afternoon. The story starts with an exposition that introduces the setting, characters, background information, and conflict. The exposition is presented in the first paragraph of the story. It is followed by the rising action follows which leads to a climax. After the climax, falling action soon emerges and brings the reader to the resolution.


Plot Elements

As previously stated, A Long walk Home, begins with the exposition which is presented in the first paragraph. The exposition is used for four purposes. First, it establishes the place setting (Mijas, located in the south of Spain) and the social setting (Estepona). Second, it introduces the characters (Jackson who is 16 years old and has just learn to drive, and his father). Third, it provides essential background information, i.e., Jackson is asked to take the car in to be serviced at a nearby garage and should pick his father at 4 p.m. Fourth, it presents the conflict, i.e. Jackson is very late to pick up his father because he is so immersed in watching a couple of movies.

Since the exposition is presented only in a brief paragraph, Bocarro manages to immediately bring the reader to the rising events. This stage starts when Jackson tells a lie to avoid his father from being angry. This soon makes the conflict more complicated because his father directly detects his lie for he has called the garage when Jackson does not turn up at 4 p.m. Although Jackson has admitted that he comes late because he watches some movies, his father’s disappointment does not fade away. He then explains that he is not disappointed due to his tardiness but because he lies to him. 

The story reaches its climax when Jackson’s father gets angry with himself for realizing he has failed to educate Jackson. This makes Jackson in a crisis. He is very regretful. Instead of punishing Jackson for his mistake, his father gets angry with himself by considering that Jackson lies because he has failed to bring him up. This event also leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen next. 

The climax is immediately followed by some falling actions. They start with the father’s decision to punish himself by walking home. Jackson apologizes, protests, and requests his father to get into the car. However, his father keeps on walking along the 18 miles home silently despite his exhaustion and deep sorrow.

These falling actions lead to the resolution or denouement, i.e. when Jackson feels distressing and painful as he sees his father suffers from physical and emotional pain, and this experience teaches him not to lie to his father ever after. On the surface level, the resolution seems unhappy and bitter. However, it is substantially a happy denouement because the bitter experience teaches Jackson an unforgettable and invaluable lesson. It makes him wiser.


Plot Uses

In A Long walk Home, Bocarro uses the plot to achieve three purposes: to present the story interestingly, to expose Jackson’s character and his development and to reveal the theme.

In this short story, Bocarro succeeds to present an interesting narrative. He effectively selects and arranges appropriate occurrences that gradually release the exposition—rising actions—climax—falling actions—resolution to create and maintain the reader’s interest. All of the events are well-chosen because no single occurrence spoils the flow of the story. Although the exposition is presented in a single brief paragraph only, it manages to establish the setting and introduce the characters, background information, and the conflict. During the plot, the reader is emotionally involved and is eager to know what happens next. Reaching the resolution, the reader is given a sense of completion because the conclusion is well presented.

The plot of A Long walk Home is also effectively used to expose Jackson’s character. He is shown as a teen (he is 16 years old), who, like teens in general, has a delinquent tendency. He has just learned to drive and hardly ever has the opportunity to use the car. That is why he is very enthusiastic to bring the car to the garage to be serviced. His teen delinquent propensity begins to affect him when he decides to watch some movies in a nearby theatre which finally makes him lose track of time. To avoid his father from getting angry, his teen delinquent propensity lets him decide to tell a lie to his father. But the lie even makes his situation more complicated for his father knows the truth. As the story reaches the denouement, Jackson is shown as a character who grows wiser.  Seeing his father’s physical suffering and emotional pain when he punishes himself by walking along the 18 miles way home, Jackson finally decides not to lie to his father ever after. Thus, it could be concluded that Bocarro manages to logically and efficiently use the plot to reveal Jackson as a teen who grows wiser through what he thinks, says, and does. 

The plot of A Long walk Home is also employed to reveal the theme. Bocarro never explicitly states that “a distressing and painful experience can be an effective lesson.” But he discloses this theme through what Jackson does in his interaction with his father during the plot.*****

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