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“Communist” by Richard Ford is a story about loneliness and inaction. Forty-one year old Les looks back on his adolescence—he’s lost his father; he has a mother, Aileen, who’s not too invested in parenthood; and the only other figure in his life is Glen Baxter, his mother’s flaky boyfriend. As Les tells his story, it’s clear that each of these characters suffers from feeling “remote from the world.” A young boy left to his own devices, with no structure and no reliable figure to look up to, Les adopts a carefree attitude, going with the flow and, when the situation becomes too much to handle, not caring at all. Aileen tries to fill her loneliness with other people while Glen wanders, clinging to a radical (and controversial) belief system as if this will give him a stronger sense of identity.

Even though Les recognizes his loneliness, he doesn’t utilize this sudden understanding and change. Decades later he looks back on this self-proclaimed “turning point” in his life, but he has apparently done nothing as a result. At forty-one, Les still lacks a deeper attachment to the world around him, and has gone so far as to isolate himself further from his mother. Between Ford’s “Optimist” and “Communist,” this seems to be a common theme. Like Frank, Les chooses to remain static and lonely, isolates himself from his mother, and is not truly aware of how little this “turning point” in his life actually impacted him.

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