What we know, from the beginning, is that Linnet Muir is alone.
“My father died, then my grandmother; my mother was left, but we did not get on.”
She concedes her role in this situation. She was probably disagreeable.
“I was probably disagreeable with anyone who felt entitled to give me instructions and advice.”
But even here, she reminds readers that this “anyone” felt a sense of entitlement.
What follows could be seen as reasons why Linnet does not feel this sense of entitlement is valid. Why the remaining advice-givers were not entitled to dispense instructions or advice.
But ultimately the most important takeaway here is Linnet’s sense of being alone and her concern with that state being properly understood.
It’s like other people might feel like they’re alone. But Linnet has uncovered other layers of being alone. And it’s not only about independence, it’s also about vulnerability.
“I was now eighteen, and completely on my own. By ‘on my own’ I don’t mean a show of independence with Papa-Mama footing the bills. I mean that I was solely responsible for my economic survival and that no living person felt any duty toward me.”
Simultaneously, readers must remember that “In Youth Is Pleasure” is Linnet’s story, told in Linnet’s voice. And that it as much about what she chooses not to present.
“There were good-hearted Americans who knew a bit of my story – as much as I wanted anyone to know – and who hoped I would swim and not drown, but from the moment I embarked on my journey I went on the dark side of the moon.”
Which is why we wonder, what does Linnet want us to know?
What might those good-hearted people have hoped for her if she had shared the parts she didn’t want anyone to know. (Again with the “anyone”.)
She still views herself as being on the dark side of the moon, but would others have hoped for her to drown if they’d known more about her?
And we cannot forget that the story is told from the future, so she has had the opportunity to reflect. She has had the chance to consider how she “should have felt”, to contrast that with what she now remembers feeling.
“I should have felt pity, but at eighteen all that came to me was thankfulness that I had been correct about one thing throughout my youth, which I now considered ended: time had been on my side, faithfully, and unless you died you were always bound to escape.”
But what does escape mean? We have five more stories to read, to search for an answer.
Home Truths Stories: Thank You for the Lovely Tea / Jorinda and Jorindel / Saturday / Up North / Orphans’ Progress / The Prodigal Parent / In the Tunnel / The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street / Bonaventure / Virus X / In Youth is Pleasure / Between Zero and One / Varieties of Exile / Voices Lost in Snow / The Doctor / With a Capital T
Note: This is part of a series of posts on Mavis Gallant’s stories, as I read through her short fiction. This is the final story in Home Truths. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story; I would love the company. Next collection: Overhead in a Balloon.