Who is responsible for determining one’s course in life? Like many philosophical enigmas, the question seems straight forward enough. But I ask you, do we make our decisions based on an internal moral compass? If so, is that compass ours by nature or is it engrained in our being by habit and self, societal, and parental corrections? In regard to the societal aspect, what role does social learning play in determining our actions? Do we respond to peer interactions by adjusting our own value system on the basis of the input and desires of those around us? Are we morally pure at birth only to be morally corrupted (or resist said corruption) by the influence of others? If we are born pure, is there an absolute good known intuitively by us— an internal moral compass? If so, why do many people choose not to do the good when they know it is the morally correct course? Alternatively, what if we lack free will? What if our actions are predetermined by fate or predestination or some law(s) of physics, rendering us helpless to change the course in any manner to any degree that influences the final outcome of our direction? Is the human condition a battle between good and evil forces and if so what are the faces of good and evil?
Jurisprudence concerns aside, the answers to the above stated philosophical problem impact the psychological well-being of most of us, for the greatest human dilemma is this: We look back on poor decisions and regret them; we look forward to the future and fret with considerable anxiety over what is the right course of action to take.
Like most of us, Samuel Blaney, the protagonist of this novella, is living this dilemma. Things began innocently enough, but early on in life’s course he was diverted, side-tracked if you will, to a tragic path. He blamed himself for circumstances beyond his control, damaged his self-esteem, rebelled against authority, turned to crime and self-abusive behavior in his attempt to cope with his guilt, fears, and loss of hope. And now, Daniel “Pockets” Blaney is heading home from his troublesome sojourn in the North of Ireland, having has placed his own tumultuous life on hold in order to expedite final arrangements for his youngest brother, Teddy, who having lived his entire adult life estranged from the rest of the family, is now nearing his end. While travelling aboard The Wall Street train from Newark to Birmingham Junction, an epiphany unearths the root of Pockets’ self-destructive lifestyle, setting his life back onto the right track.