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Spiritually and personally, Lucien is a casualty of the
events of 9/11. For
Lucien it is now impossible to look even upon Nathaniel and his friends,
the younger generation, with anything resembling optimism or hope.
He represents a stunted old guard, jaded by world events and personal
tragedies to a state most likely beyond repair. Lucien sees his
own loss in the trauma of 9/11,
and his inability to recover from this loss mirrors the nation’s
failure to recover from 9/11.
Before his wife died, Lucien was proudly involved in the artistic and
creative industries of New York. When he visited Nathaniel’s family
in the Midwest with Charlie, he represented success and accomplishment.
Since his wife’s death, however, he’s been unable to feel the same
joy. Lucian longs for the seeming stability of the world of his
childhood—a world symbolized by his schoolteacher Mrs. Mueller,
whose words and image haunt him throughout the story. Nevertheless,
he understands the futility of these thoughts, realizing that even
in those days the stability he felt was merely a fabrication, a
curtain that could be pulled back at any moment to reveal a dangerous
problematic world. At the end of the story, Lucien’s only comfort
is in the unimportance of his, and Nathan’s, time on this planet,
a wholly pessimistic and cynical perspective on the world.