One should note that the literary works of Conrad Aiken (1954) illustrate his life-long interest in the observation of human consciousness and inner desires, as well as their evolution. The author’s “Impulse” analyzes the psychological concepts and terms pertaining to each person. The short story offers a psychological analysis of a paranoid individual whose attempt to escape from reality appears to be a self-destructive act. His actions become a cause of his arrest for a theft and a divorce from his wife. An analysis of the story shows that the attempt to use impulsive behavior by the main character leads to the logical culmination of a wide range of actions in his life.
In the short narration, Conrad Aiken (1954) describes the hero named Michael Lowes as an irresponsible individual who lies and steals in order to escape from routine and daily work. The writer uses the other characters in the story to enhance the negative features of Michael’s persona. At the beginning of the narration, Aiken (1954) shows Michael as an ordinary person who plans to spend an evening with his friends. However, as the story progresses, readers may observe the character is a man who is involved in self-deception. For example, after a series of illegal actions he makes himself believe that he is decent male whose fate is against him. “Impulse” helps reveal how a person like Michael Lowes can become a victim of his or her guise and be suddenly surprised by the reality of actions.
It is important to underline that in order to analyze the protagonist’s personality, readers should study his thoughts. However, the author creates a distance between the reader and Michael. Nevertheless, it helps reveal the character’s inner world and observe events in a way that Michael sees them through his distorted perspective.
The depth of Lowes’s character begins with a self-reliant male looking in the mirror. He wonders whether to inform his wife, Dora, about playing cards with his friends until the late evening. Michael knows his wife will be disappointed about it because he should be at home after work in order to do the paperwork and pay the bills as other responsible males do. However, he decides to pretend he has no plans for the evening. It helps readers see that he is a person who chooses a lie instead of fulfilling home duties.
The other examples of family negligence one can prove by Michael’s words, “Let the bills wait, damn them!” (Aiken, 1954, p. 11). By telling these words, the protagonist convinces himself that a man should have a rest. It is explained by the fact that his wife, the family relations and obligations threaten. The bills are the things that evoke his negative feelings.
Moreover, he reassures himself that he could not do everything at once. In addition, Aiken (1954) shows that Michael cares only for himself because he does not even like his friends Bryant, Hurwitz, or Smith. He considers them “cheap fellows,” as well as “mere pick-up acquaintances” (Aiken, 1954, p. 11). Lowes uses them only for the alcohol. It means that Michel is a mean person who does only those things that he wants.
Aiken (1954) continues his description of the hero by analyzing the game event, which completely changed Lowes’s life. During the game of cards, Michel’s friends debate why people should restrain those impulses that make them do certain things. The author mentions, “Have you got impulses? Of course, you got impulses” (Aiken, 1954, p. 12). Men ask why they need to ignore their inner desires and do what other people want them do. After the night of having fun, the main character decides to test their theory and practice it.
Readers get to know that Michael has the same impulses as his friends. Moreover, he has them since his childhood. Therefore, when he finds his friends’ desires to have what they want, Lowes reveals at the same times his hidden wants. He becomes “amused” the idea of ignoring social inhibitions (Aiken, 1954, p. 13). He feels that is “going to put the impulse to the test, and see whether (one) he could manage it with sufficient skill, and (two) whether theft gave him any real satisfaction” (Aiken, 1954, p. 13).
However, the author shows that the protagonist does not understand the fateful mistake of believing that giving into an impulse and committing an offense may be taken back as easily as it is performed. In “Impulse,” Michael uses his friends’ relations in order to increase his self-image. At the same time, he maintains a distance from them by denying the fact that he likes them.
Therefore, he decides to commit a crime. The title character steals a thing from a drugstore and puts it into his pocket. However, his inexperience at theft makes the shop assistant and manager notice it. The police put him to jail because of his poor judgment on own impulses. Aiken (1954) narrates how the discussion of impulse in an environment of games and drinks causes the implementation of absurd desires. The audience does not know how much the stolen thing costs, but for the drugstore, it is an expensive one. Furthermore, the events that follow his actions seem challenging compared with what Lowes has done, particularly for the first time. The police send Michael to jail, where his family and friends abandon him.
While analyzing the hero’s personality, one should underline that Michael commits a robbery not knowing that nobody will support him: neither his wife nor friends. Lowes understands that Dore does not like his inability to earn money for the children or pay bills. In addition, she cannot understand “the too-frequent removals from town to town” (Aiken, 1954, p. 16). These things undermine Dora’s trust towards her husband. Michael believes that her partner “would of course come to say goodbye to him, but even in this he was mistaken; she left without a word” (Aiken, 1954, p. 19). Instead, she sends him a brief note, in which she states that she cannot bring up her children with a criminal. Therefore, she decides to divorce him. The author shows that Lowes’s self-reliance has provoked such a behavior of his wife.
As the narration progresses, readers see that the major character believes that it is “a monstrous joke; a huge injustice” (Aiken, 1954, p. 11). He considers the theft only an implementation of impulse. Later, he concludes that a person cannot trust anybody, even a close relative or friend. However, he omits the fact that only his self-confidence has led to imprisonment and social isolation.
The last episode of the narration reveals the characteristics of the hero. As he in the cell, Lowes recollects memories. It is significant to note that Aiken (1954) provides readers with a series of memories, which illustrate the impulsive decision to steal since childhood. The main character’s Chicago flashbacks include his mother who taught him how “to be orderly” (Aiken, 1954, p. 20). He also reminds Dora, who reproaches him of not being a responsible man. Finally, he concludes that all good things have ended. However, Aiken (1954) also offers other memories that point to Michael’s past crimes and failures. It helps readers determine that Lowes cannot admit weakness. For instance, the “crowded examination room at college” may presuppose an impulsive desire to cheat (Aiken, 1954, p. 20). Such recollections serve as cues his impulsive actions that the hero subconsciously remembers. However, he cannot consciously admit them as failures. Instead, the writer shows that Michael considers these flashbacks as a series of “trivial and infinitely charming little episodes” (Aiken, 1954, p. 20).
One should point to the fact that the short story attempts to identify right and wrong aspects of human life through his protagonist Michael Lowes. The author opposes the main character to superior ones. He describes him as a person who thinks of himself as under-appreciated and overworked. Aiken (1954) portrays him as a young male, who is substantially convinced of his importance to people and the surrounding world. He is an individual who does not like that his wife or friends expect him to work hard, pay attention to them, as well as pay the bills. Therefore, he ignores his wife and carries out actions that a person would not normally do.
“Impulse” is a story that sends a message for all people. It shows that people may think that they work too hard for too little. Furthermore, the narration illustrates the real life events in which individuals may believe that their families demand too much. It makes them wonder why humans cannot have the things they want.
In conclusion, the story shows that the attempt of the hero to use impulsive behavior leads to the logical culmination of a wide range of actions in his life. The beginning of the narration may make some readers thinks Michael’s position is to be responsible man and stay home in order to spend time with his children or take care of the bills. However, Aiken (1954) shows another male who decides to benefit from his friends and ignore the duties of marriage. In addition, he refuses to face reality. Aiken (1954) let people face the real life and admit the rights choice. Michael’s character serves as an example of why it is necessary to suppress inner impulses.