When Carla initially runs away from her family, she seeks a life away from their expectations so that she can live as she pleases. Her affluent mother and stepfather want her to go to college, but all Carla wants is to live and work among nature and animals. Though she initially agrees to go to college to be a veterinarian, her parents’ expectations repel her. When they express their dislike of Clark due to his lower social status, “they were practically guaranteeing [that she run away with him].” But although she has abandoned her original plan in the hopes of establishing an “authentic” life, Carla doesn’t end up finding what she’s looking for—or what she thought she was looking for. Carla seems to specifically want to escape what she sees as the confines of upper-class life: “She despised […] their vacations, their Cuisinart, their powder room, their walk-in closets […].” Carla feels that if she does what her parents want, she will be restricted to live the same kind of life that they do. She doesn’t share the values of education and money that they impose on her. She does of course succeed in moving to the countryside to work with horses as she originally wanted, but this doesn’t grant her the fulfillment she hoped it would. In the end, Clark imposes his own expectations and limitations on her, such that she has no independence. It turns out, perhaps, that Carla had misidentified her desire. What she thought was a longing for “authenticity” was really a longing for independence and freedom. But when she left her family, she did it with Clark “as the architect of the life ahead of them, herself as captive.” She goes from living within her parents’ limitations to living within Clark’s. In order to fulfill her desire for independence, Carla would have to take charge of her own path. The story thus suggests that true independence comes from self-reliability—that is, people must be the architects of their own lives and avoid trying to find fulfilment within the confines of what other people want or expect from them.
Independence and Freedom ThemeTracker
Independence and Freedom 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.
At first she had been Clark’s pet entirely, following him everywhere, dancing for his attention. She was quick and graceful and provocative as a kitten, and her resemblance to a guileless girl in love had made them both laugh. But as she grew older she seemed to attach herself to Carla, and in this attachment she was suddenly much wiser, less skittish—she seemed capable, instead, of a subdued and ironic sort of humor.
It was almost a relief, though, to feel the single pain of missing Flora, of missing Flora perhaps forever, compared to the mess she had got into concerning Mrs. Jamieson, and her seesaw misery with Clark. At least Flora’s leaving was not on account of anything she—Carla—had done wrong.
As Mrs. Jamieson might say—and as she herself might with satisfaction have said—taking charge of her own life. With nobody glowering over her, nobody’s mood infecting her with misery.
But what would she care about? How would she know that she was alive?
While she was running away from him—now—Clark still kept his place in her life. But when she was finished running away, when she just went on, what would she put in his place? What else –who else—could ever be so vivid a challenge?
The fog had thickened, taken on a separate shape, transformed itself into something spiky and radiant. First a live dandelion ball, tumbling forward, then condensing itself into an unearthly sort of animal, pure white, hell-bent, something like a giant unicorn, rushing at them.
“Jesus Christ,” Clark said softly and devoutly.
A skull that she could hold like a teacup in one hand. Knowledge in one hand.
Or perhaps not. Nothing there.
Other things could have happened. He could have chased Flora away. Or tied her in the back of the truck and driven some distance and set her loose. Taken her back to the place they’d got her from. Not to have her around, reminding them.
She might be free.
The days passed and Carla didn’t go near that place. She held out against the temptation.