The Comparison of Two Stories: Theme of Desire/Longing

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Desire is described as a deep desire for something or something or hoping for something to happen. Desire may also be expressed as a desire for something or something. Craving, wishing for, or coveting are other terms that are often used in place of the expression lust. Desire is usually triggered by body constructs or people's mental states. Many writers in the modern world use the theme of desire, especially human desire, in their novels and stories. This theme can range from a long, aching feeling to what can be termed as an unstoppable torrent as seen in Voltaire’s short story “The Good Brahmin” and the short story “The old Impossible” by Amy Bloom. This paper, through a critical lens, compares and contrasts the application of theme of desire/ longing by Voltaire and Amy Bloom in the short stories “The Good Brahmin and “The old impossible respectively”.

Short Summary of the Two Stories

Voltaire’s short story the “Good Brahmin,” Brahmin is a wise man who possesses a lively intellect as well as great wealth. However, Brahmin is not content with his life due to his thirst for more knowledge; which is portrayed by his massive efforts towards understanding things such as what eternity and time are as well as the origin of his thoughts (Voltaire & Cuffe).

On the other hand, Amy’s short story, “The old Impossible” centers on the life of two couples; one of the couple being Clare and Charles while the other is Isabel and William (Bloom). The story explores the couple’s individual lives as well as that within the social context. However, from the seemingly perfect relationships lies a dark secret unknown to Charles and Isabel.

Comparison: The Common theme of Desire/ Longing

In Voltaire’s short story the theme of desire is widely portrayed by the character Brahmin. Throughout the story Brahmin’s desire for more knowledge on things such as the origin of thoughts as well as what both eternity and time is evident. To begin with, Brahmin desire to be knowledgeable is evident in his dedication to study. According Brahmin, he spent forty years studying; however, he still feels as though he is ignorant as he is unable to provide answers to some questions raised (Voltaire & Cuffe). However, Brahmin cannot be regarded ignorant, unlike many people in the story such as the old Indian woman; it is quite evident that he possesses the desire to acquire knowledge of the unknown.

Brahmin’s desire or rather thirst for knowledge is also evident in his massive efforts in trying to understand his surroundings through reading ancient books as well as his inquisitive nature and questions asked to most of his companions to satisfy his overwhelming curiosity as seen in the story (Voltaire).

Similarly, approximately one of a quartet of Amy’s short story “The Old Impossible” centers on the theme of desire/longing. This theme is portrayed through a number of characters which include Clare, William, and David. To begin with, despite Clare being married to Charles and Isabel to William, Clara and William desire each other. However, the two character’s inability to establish a long-term and open relationship is hindered by the fact both of them have spouses, and they are all friends (Bloom).

Some of the instances in which the theme of desire is portrayed in the story are such as when William mouths some words to Clare to avoid Isabel, David, and Charles from eavesdropping telling her that his love for her is everlasting despite having being married Isabel, and nothing has been lost after all. William’s desire for Clare in this instance is reciprocated when the author states that, “it is so beautiful, so drenched in the lush, streaming light of what is not, she closes her eyes to see” (Bloom). In another instance, the author depicts Clare’s lust for William where she states that Clare no longer thinks of William on a daily basis as she did before. However, she still thinks of him whenever she is falling asleep, hence, in her dreams.

Moreover, from the story, it is clear that William and Clare’s desire for each other results in undesirable acts between the two, according to the author, “William is sorry to see David, as he always is. David is the living embodiment of William's bad conscience about sleeping with Clare” (Bloom).

The theme of desire/longing is also portrayed by the character David. From the book, David seems to have a strong desire for Isabel and is therefore attracted to her. This is portrayed when Isabel visits Clare’s house, to David Isabel is not plain rather she is attractive. The author also portrays David’s desire through the statement, “No one bothered to tell him she was coming. He would have put on a fresh shirt. He might have shaved. She's a good-looking woman” (Bloom). Moreover, in another instance, Clare watches her uncle as he watches Isabel in lascivious way. David’s life also depicts his strong desire for women when he recalls chasing after different women despite being married. According to David, his wife was also extremely beautiful that she aroused the feeling of desire in men as she turned head everywhere due to her beauty.


One of the primary differences between the two short stories is based on the object of desire. In Voltaire’s short story, the object of desire is knowledge as Brahmin only desires knowledge (Voltaire). On the other hand Amy’s short story the object of desire is “people” whereby, the characters desire different individuals in the story. Moreover, the object of desire in Voltaire’s short story can be considered as intangible unlike in Army’s short story.

In conclusion, another difference between the two short stories is that, in Voltaire’s story, the theme of desire is only portrayed by a single character; Brahmin, while in the other story this theme is depicted through characters such as William, Clare, and David. Moreover, unlike in Voltaire’s short story, in Amy’s short story the theme of desire/longing to a great extent is directly linked to that of betrayal. Hence, these two themes are inseparable; since David’s desire for other women and William and Clare’s desire for each other results in the betrayal of their spouses.

Works Cited

Amy Bloom. “Ploughshares”. Cambridge: Fall 2006. Vol. 32, Iss. 2/3. Retrieved From:

Voltaire, and Theo Cuffe. “The Story of a Good Brahmin”. 2002. Internet resource.

Voltaire. “Story of a Good Brahmin”. Translated by H. I. Woolf. (2004). Retrieved From:

January 18, 2023

Life Literature


Emotions Literary Genres

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Desire Feeling Short Story

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Expertise Short Story
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