Friday, September 5, 2014

The Travels of Needy Merrill

The Travels of Neddy Merrill

I had many different thoughts of Neddy Merrill throughout this short story. It starts off with him having a hangover but yet drinking again. He sees the string of pools to get home as a river that he names after his wife Lucinda which in all reality is not a river. As Neddy goes from pool to pool, friend to friend, he always has a drink with them. Or does he?

At one point in the story, he finds himself on the side of Route 424 half-naked, has a beer can thrown at him by a passerby, and continues to the recreation center only to be thrown out because he wasn’t wearing an ID tag. He went to the Halloran’s house where they informed him that they heard that he sold his house and something about his poor children, which he didn’t recall. He also went to an ex-lovers house where he got the cold shoulder, and a house where he was called a “gate crasher,” and that he lost all his money.

By the time that Neddy finally made his journey across the county and make it to his house, he comes to find that his house is empty and abandoned, wife and children gone, and in fact truly alone. Has this journey truly happened, or possibly illusions from days past? I believe that Neddy was an alcoholic and possibly lost his wife and children possibly due to job loss, or a gambling problem, or a mixture of all of these. Could Needy have escaped from a mental institution or a residential care facility with some form of dementia? I wish the story didn’t end the way it did because it leaves a lot unsaid.


  1. I think the author was trying to say something with what wasn't said. He missed out on a lot of things by spending all of his time drinking, and the result ended up being that he just looked up one day and everything important in his life was gone. What wasn't said ended up being the things Neddy missed out on himself.

  2. I don't know that we are supposed to read as much into the drinking; I think it serves more as a motif or symbol than as an explanation for Neddy's circumstances. Remember the context of the story; it was written in 1964 and drinking was viewed very differently then. Everyone is drinking, but not everyone ends up like Neddy. The drinking seems to serve more as a marker of social status (declining status for Neddy) and a point about how people in this environment connect and relate to on another. This motif also helps to establish or explain some of the disorientation and surrealism of the story.