Feed on

There are a lot of endearing qualities in Lee Smith’s “Toastmaster.” The concept of place is prevalent throughout the story, and we are very aware of the setting.  We are constantly reminded that there is something special about Jeffery- the use of “(word)” to denote a vocabulary word he has used experimentally, keeps us in his head. The idea that Jeffery is special in some way, is supported by the “invisible boy” phenomenon in which Dar and Lindsay are able to talk about him as though he is not there, even though Jeffery is there and in hearing shot. The use of “kid” in reference to Jeffery, creates distance between Jeffery and his mother, and the use of “Dar” instead of mom gives us the distinct impression that someone else who is there but has not been revealed, is telling the story. Smith introduces the idea of an unborn twin brother of Jeffery’s, named Rick, and with this new idea we begin to see the setting and place of the story in a slightly different perspective. We see this again with the description of “Jeffery’s Invisible Life” and the narrator’s comment that Jeffery calls his old neighbors “the Hampsters” (in his head) instead of the Hampdens. The narrator continues to refer to the old couple as the Hampsters, which is actually a little odd since Jeffery has never said it aloud. This leads the reader to believe that Rick might be telling the story.

We never hear any more about the patrons at the bar, other than the snippets that one would normally hear. There was the couple who was talking and the girl ran out, and the most we recall about them is that the girl had blueish breasts. There was the man with a bird on his shoulder, and then there were the loud men. These loud men told terrible jokes, and yet Jeffery was entranced. When Jeffery tells his joke, for the first time it seems as though he is living in the moment. This sensation is carried over through the rest of the story as the telling of it becomes fluid and like a sped up movie reel. Jeffery’s purpose in Place as it is told in this story changes with his level of invisibility. The Place in which things happen, for Jeffery, is in his head. As the story progresses, Jeffery begins getting in touch with other people in the Key West bar, which causes him to fully devote himself to the “here and now” at school where he competes in a talent show, gaining purpose and visibility.

Comments are closed.