The word “runaway” in its most literal sense refers to escape. Each main character in the story makes an attempt to escape their respective pasts and problems, but to limited avail. Carla is a runaway in that she leaves her parents, hometown, and future plans of college in the hopes of attaining a more “authentic” life. This doesn’t pan out for her, as she ends up unhappy in her new life. She’s a runaway again when she tries to leave her life with Clark. Flora is a runaway too, in that she leaves her original home when she’s young, then leaves Clark and Carla, too. And, just like Carla, Flora ends up coming back home. Similarly, Sylvia tries to escape the gloomy aftermath of her husband’s death by going on a trip to Greece, but when she returns home, of course, the situation remains. Sylvia is uncomfortable in the house she used to share with Leon and stops sleeping in their bedroom. Eventually, she moves to a new apartment but doesn’t sell the old house, implying that she’s not fully letting go of her former life there and perhaps is keeping the option open to return. Clark, too, seems to be constantly trying to escape from some sort of mental pain. The story doesn’t reveal extensive details about Clark’s past, but it’s clear that he is emotionally troubled and has lost touch with his family. He is a “drifter,” always moving and changing jobs, and he uses the computer as an escape from his unhappy life. But Clark doesn’t find happiness, just as none of the other characters’ escapes are truly successful. In this way, the story depicts running away, or attempting escape, as an ineffective solution to dealing with life’s problems.
Escape Quotes in Runaway
In the first dream Flora had walked right up to the bed with a red apple in her mouth, but in the second dream—last night—she had run away when she saw Carla coming. Her leg seemed to be hurt but she ran anyway. She led Carla to a barbed-wire barricade of the kind that might belong on some battlefield, and then she—Flora—slipped through it, hurt leg and all, just slithered through like a white eel and disappeared.
“It’s said to represent a racehorse,” Sylvia said. “Making that final spurt, the last effort in a race. The rider, too, the boy, you can see he’s urging the horse on to the limit of its strength.”
She did not mention that the boy had made her think of Carla, and she could not now have said why. He was only about ten or eleven years old. Maybe the strength and grace of the arm that must have held the reins, or the wrinkles in his childish forehead, the absorption and the pure effort there was in some way like Carla cleaning the big windows last spring.
Her feet seemed now to be at some enormous distance from her body, Her knees, in the unfamiliar crisp pants, were weighted with irons. She was sinking to the ground like a stricken horse who will never get up.