A major theme in this story is the effect that close-mildness can have on an individual’s life. This story is set in the small town of Sand City, Kansas. Most of the people in the town are greedy and materialistic, but above all they are very close-minded. The story centers on the funeral of Harvey Merrick. There were very few people in the town who actually understood Harvey Merrick, and because of this very few people liked him.
Harvey Merrick did not measure up to the expectations held by the townspeople.
They considered him to be a failure because he wasn’t driven by the need for more money or more possessions. Harvey was a sculptor and a teacher who had little interest in the pursuit of material wealth, which he did not fit among the others. Harvey left the small town and its small mindedness behind and began a new life as a sculptor and a teacher.
Harvey, although not appreciated by most people was well liked by his student who had accompanied his body all the way to Kansas for the funeral. The townspeople were shocked to see that someone actually liked Harvey enough to go through such effort to attend his funeral. The only other person who really understood and liked Harvey was Jim Liard.
Jim Liard had known Harvey for years and had a deep admiration for him. Liard explains that just like Harvey he too wanted to become a great person, but that the overwhelming expectations placed upon him by the townspeople lead him to become a “shrew lawyer.” He explains that Harvey was able to break away from the mentality of the small town and reach his potential without the worry of not fitting in.
In conclusion, the story demonstrated how Harvey was able to make a life for himself outside the narrow mindedness of his hometown. Unlike Harvey, Jim Liard conformed to these expectations and became a person whom he disliked. This story also points out that even in death, the people of the town could not bring themselves to understand or like Harvey because he was not like them.