The short story titled "Emperor of the Air", by Ethan Canin is a very easy to understand narration. It is puzzling to think that such a young writer would have such great insight into the world of an older man, but he most definitely does and it is portrayed through the eyes of the narrator. But the story isn't about just the narrator, it is really about the differences between the narrator and Mr. Pike, the younger, healthier, next door neighbor.
The Narrator experiences a heart attack that slows him down considerably. The Narrator is married and thinks about his wife Vera, who is nearly his age, but because she still has her health she has gone off for several weeks to hike the Appalachian Trail and gets to enjoy many other activities that he can't partake in. The fact that the Narrator is at home quite a bit gives him time to dwell on subjects that he might not have given so much attention to if he still had his health.
There is 250 year old elm tree that sits in the narrators front yard and it has become infested with insects. The tree is a representation of the Narrator because it is old and in danger of dying because of the infestation of insects. This is a lot like the Narrator whose health took a dive after his heart attack and is also in danger of dying if he allows his heart to race from strenuous activities. Mr. Pike wants to cut the tree down and says to the Narrator, "It's a shame, but I'll be frank: there's other trees on this block. I've got my own elms to think of." It doesn't seem like Mr. Pike wants to cut the tree down because he dislikes the Narrator but rather because he genuinely doesn't want the other trees to become infested with the insects.
At this point in the story we see the Narrator start to focus on the life of Mr. Pike and he seems to enjoy pointing out all of his flaws. In the story the Narrator describes Mr. Pike as a "thick and unpleasant man." He also says that "Mr. Pike is a poor craftsman, a man who values money...
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