Francis, the leading male character of the story, suddenly finds himself in a situation where despite his efforts he cannot ignore the fact that something is missing in his suburban life. On the whole, it all seems quite right as suburban life might often look but underneath the surface lies a sense of restlessness as if there is a hole in the picture that needs to be filled. after an almost near-tragic experience on the plane, Francis returns home with a heightened sense of his mortality only to find that no one was really interested in that story. This leaves him with a sense of frustration and emptiness which makes him explore life outside his suburban existence.
The reaction of his daughter Helen explains what really the core problem was. Helen, "doesnt understand about the plane crash, because there wasnt a drop of rain in Shady Hill" (Shady Hill, 54). She cannot fathom how her father could have been in an accident when weather was just fine in Shady Hill. This helps us understand what the issue is really. The people in Shady Hill cannot see beyond their own suburban boundaries. They are suffering from middle class complacency that doesn’t allow them to see beyond the limited sphere of suburban lives. That obviously limits a person’s view of the world and Francis slowly begins to realize it:
“Looking back over the recent history of Shady Hill for some precedent,…"[Francis] found there was none. There was no turpitude; there had not been a divorce since he lived there; there had not even been a breath of scandal. Things seemed arranged with more propriety even than in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Shady Hill, 66).
This surreal picture was however sometimes disturbed by people or animals that couldn’t gel well into the suburban structure. Two such people were Gertrude and Jupiter, a little girl and a black retriever, who were living lives on their own terms and in their own way. However