The Peach Stone by Paul Horgan, 1942
The magic trick:
Highlighting the jealousy felt by the teacher
Horgan does a nice job of showing each point of view of the four characters in the car. My favorite detail among them is the jealousy felt by the teacher, Miss Latcher. It’s a remarkable thing that during a tragedy as bleak as the accidental death of a 2-year-old a woman could be envious of the loss. But Horgan makes it believable, thereby shading the tragedy in a whole new light. Miss Latcher’s life is so devoid of love she envies the connection the family feels, even as the connecting bond is grief. I wasn’t as moved as perhaps many readers will be by the mother’s spiritual journey throughout the story, but I very much admire the insight about loss and tragedy Miss Latcher’s reaction highlights. And that’s quite a trick on Horgan’s part.
It made her head swim to realize this. But she envied them their entanglement with one another, and the dues they paid each other in the humility of the duty they were performing on this ride, to the family burial ground at Weed. Here she sat riding with them, to come along and be of help to them, and she was no help. She was unable to swallow the lump of desire that rose in her throat, for life’s uses, even such bitter ones as that of the Powers family today. It had been filling her gradually, all the way over on the trip, this feeling of jealousy and degradation.