The young boys who speculate about Don Trine have a limited, materialistic vision of life. Although they work on the land, they have no real connection to it. This may be understandable since they are migrant workers often on the move, but it is clear that they can conceive value only in terms of money. A man like Trine who goes off in secret must be hiding money. Perhaps the attitude of the youngsters reflects the hard and impoverished life led by Mexican American migrant workers. As low-paid workers without many material resources, they see the accumulation of money as the principal goal of life. Although their ethnic heritage is Mexican, they live in the United States, the most abundant culture in the world from a materialistic point of view, and they have acquired its values. Acquiring these values has come at the expense of a true relationship with and understanding of nature and its cycles. At the end of the story, one of the boys finds out for himself that there are things of enormous value that have nothing to do with money.
Nature and Its Meaning
In contrast to the young boys who think of life only in terms of money, the older workers appear to have a different attitude. These are the people the narrator refers to in the first paragraph as “the folks.” They are more mature and reflective and can sense an “aura of peace and death” in the air as the harvest season comes to an end. Sensing that everything is coming to rest, they take more time to think. They are aware of the cycles of nature and how these affect human life. Their reflective thoughts are partly because they are about to pack up and move back to Texas, but they also possess a deeper awareness of how nature’s moods color their own.
The only named character in the story, Don Trine, is the one who knows this better than anyone. He is deeply connected to the land, and he has developed his own ritual to remind him of this, and it has acquired an almost sacred quality for him. Although he does not deliberately pass on this ritual to the younger generation of workers, one boy discovers it for himself through observing Trine. This boy is motivated only by curiosity, but as he imitates what he has seen Trine do, he, in effect, initiates himself into a new way of experiencing the land. As he sinks his arm into the earth and feels its embrace, he becomes aware of the earth as a living being. This awareness gives him a new appreciation of nature’s cycles and his relationship to them.
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, Tomas Rivera, Published by Gale, 2002.