Finally got around to reading this story from The New Yorker from almost a year ago! He’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers!
Don’t read any more of this short analysis without reading the story yourself. For example…here ya go. Click the following words
“Find the Bad Guy” by Jeffrey Eugenides
Hey! You’re back! If you’re really wise, upon finishing this essay, you’ll seek out a couple more reviews and perhaps decide to write one yourself. That is, of course, unless you are Jeffrey Eugenides. (If you are he…Hey, buddy!)
Okay. I’d like to talk briefly about two elements of this story that stood out. Prior to this story, my experience with this author was zilch, unless you count watching the movie The Switch dozens of times late at night with my wife. Charlie D. is, hold on now, a rather likable guy. Sure, he made a poor decision during a booze-induced, wife’s-outta-town depressive state. Who hasn’t? Seriously, though, let’s step down from our high horses for a few and evaluate the guy.
The guy is a jokester who loves his kids and tries to love his wife. He’s very good at measuring distances with his eyes, but that talent was superseded by his inability to properly read a temporary restraining order. There’s no doubt that the relationship with the babysitter should not have progressed in the manner that it did; Charlie seems filled with regret when thinking of that version of himself. It’s a deal-breaking event, but he’s slowly returned to civilized behavior.
The fire pit, on the other hand, is a wonderful symbol. Throughout the story, we learn its varying value to the key players–it’s a wasteland to his wife, a sanctuary for Charlie, and a rite of passage for the sitter. For anyone who has experience with doomed relationships, the situations here become (ahem) close to home.