The Jam by Henry Slesar
In The Jam by Henry Slesar we have the theme of addiction, struggle, friendship, loyalty, control and responsibility. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Slesar may be exploring the theme of addiction. The reason Stukey is driving so fast and erratic is because Mitch is withdrawing from heroin and needs a fix. He is struggling physically and is facing hardship. There is no time in Stukey’s eyes for being patient as necessity dictates that Mitch get his drugs. It is possible that Slesar is suggesting that those who surround themselves with drugs not only act irresponsibly (Stukey) but they also put the lives of others in danger. Which is very much the case when it comes to Stukey’s driving.
It may also be a case that Slesar is exploring the theme of friendship. It looks like Stukey will do everything he can for Mitch. Even going as far as risking the lives of others. However Mitch is on a downward spiral and if anything he is taking Stukey down with him too. Such is his need for drugs. It is as though Stukey has a blind allegiance towards Mitch. Which is often the case when it comes to young men. They blindly follow each other without the ability to make up their own minds. It is also possible that Stukey and Mitch are members of the same gang and this may be the reason as to why Stukey is being so loyal to Mitch. Even if he doesn’t take drugs himself. Stukey is prepared to risk his and other people’s lives in order for Mitch to get his drugs. If anything both young men are on a path to nowhere. Something that is symbolically noticeable when Stukey and Mitch encounter the traffic jam.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. The tunnel is dark and in many ways Mitch is in a dark place. Just as there is no sunshine in the tunnel there does not appear to be anything positive in Mitch’s life. Such is his dependency on heroin. The other drivers that Stukey cuts off on the road could represent the lack of care that Stukey has for others. Again he appears to be blindly loyal to Mitch. Whose number one concern is to get drugs. The fact that Mitch is addicted to heroin also suggests that he lacks any real control in his life. He is being controlled by his need for heroin.
The end of the story is interesting as Slesar appears to be further exploring the theme of control. Stukey has no control over the traffic. He moves a foot or two every few minutes. Something that only leads to further desperation with Mitch. The wreck that the police officer describes may have some symbolical significance. Just as there has been a crash in the tunnel. Mitch too is a wreck, physically, and there is nothing that Stukey can do to help him. In reality Stukey and Mitch are two men who are loyal to each other but who have no control over the direction their lives will take. This is due to the very fact that addiction has ruined Mitch’s life and the reader suspects it will soon ruin Stukey and Mitch’s friendship.