PW: The narrator in Danny in Lane Two sacrificed a scholarship to stay back in his hometown and care for people in his life. Do you think he has any regret that he never tried to explore the wider world?
SW: Absolutely. He’s full of regret and he’s built his whole personality over that regret, which is why he’s so self-righteous about having chosen to staying home. Men make safe decisions, sometimes even cowardly ones, and cover them over with concepts like duty and stability to live with themselves. This narrator has to feel good about the decisions he’s made, even lionize himself for them, in order to keep himself from getting lost in what might have been.
So while he’s admirable for becoming a strong and responsible man, his reasons for becoming one are a bit suspect. When Danny shows up in town, it’s as if his presence pulls the protective scab off of that regret and reopens it. Danny messed up so badly in the world, and the narrator knows he could have done better. And the people who he stayed in town to take care of? They would have survived just fine. Danny is a reminder of the chances he didn’t take for himself, and that makes him bear down doubly hard on his self-righteousness.
Someday, if he ever wants to be happy, he’ll need to stop pawning off his decision to stay home on other people than himself and face the fact that he did it because he was scared. I have hope for him. Maybe I’ll bump into him someday and he’ll have another story for me.