JH: The ending of “Pastoral” seems almost peaceful and happy to me; did you intend it as such? Is there beauty in decay?
SRB: There is certainly peace and happiness at the end in the sense that the affected parties (the wife and the son) were able to find personal solace by abandoning the husband/father, and as for the husband/father, his last moment was in the very spot he enjoyed being in. On the flip side, the final words of the last sentence create a grotesque image which, I had intended, seems to contradict the title of the story. “Pastoral” is a term that is applied to art forms (painting, music, literature) which feature the idyllic life of shepherds and country folk, or even just the countryside itself. Pastoral paintings normally depict the countryside and nature as a peaceful, beautiful setting–almost like the Garden of Eden. The father did find peace by immersing himself, alone, on his rural property, sitting by the river and enjoying the view of the country, but in the end, his “god” (Nature) claims him, leaving his decaying body to mar what would normally be a beautiful scene of the surrounding landscape.