The Cranes

The Cranes

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“The Cranes” by Peter Meinke appears to be a simple love story about an old couple reminiscing about their life, but with a closer look the story reveals a darker component of love. The story follows an old couple’s stop at the Gulf to watch some birds. While they are watching the birds they spot two whooping cranes. Throughout their conversation and observation of the birds Meinke reveals details that the couples and the cranes share in common. Thus, the pair of whooping cranes viewed by the couple in story symbolizes both their rarity, eternal love, and their last moments together.
The couple in the story is a couple that has been together a long time and persevered through life together. When they first see the whooping cranes the husband says “they are rare, not many left” (196). This is the point in the story where the first connection between the couple and the cranes are made. The rarity of the cranes symbolizes the rarity of the couple’s relationship. Although they have started developing anomalies in their health, with the husband he “can’t smoke, can’t drink martinis, no coffee, no candy” (197) ¬—they are still able to laugh with each other and appreciate nature’s beauty. Their relationship is a true oddity; filled with lasting love. However this lasting love for whooping cranes has caused some problems for the species. The whooping cranes are “almost extinct”; this reveals a problem of the couple. The rare love that they have is almost extinct as well. The wife worries about her children because the “kids never write” (197). This reveals the communication gap between the two generations, as well as the different values between the generations. These different values are a factor into the extinction of true love.
Another similarity between the whooping cranes and the couple is true, lasting love. The whooping cranes “mate for life and live a long time” (197), which is a rare trait in the animal kingdom. The commitment the cranes have with each other mirrors the couples commitment to each other; having remained with each other through all those years. Even with hardships in the relationships, they endured and stayed together while some couples may have given up on the relationship.
Although their love has endured through many years, it has come to an end in the story. All throughout the story the couple is reminiscing about their life and while they are there are some odd details that are strewn throughout.

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All these different details come together to validate the deeper ending to their true love; they commit suicide together. The first detail given is “the shower curtain spread over the front seat” (196); this is ultimately for whoever has to clean-up after their death. The next clue was that “he turned in his seat, picked up an object wrapped in a plaid towel, and placed it between them in the front” (197). This detail gives away that they are using some sort of object to assist them in their suicides, rather than a poison or drug. The next detail is when the wife asks the husband “Did you bring any ear protection?” Ear protection is usually used with firearms, thus this detail gave away that they were using a gun. The ultimate detail the revealed this tragic act, was when “suddenly, the two cranes plunged upwards…toward the sun” (198). The cranes presumably took off when the gun shot was fired otherwise, the cranes wouldn’t have “suddenly” taken off. The cranes movement through the marsh also mimics the movement of the couple. Right before the cranes take off, they “were stepping delicately away from the commotion” (198). This mirrors the action of the couple; going away from the bustle of city to the serene coast to commit their act. Although the couple chose to end their lives in a tragic way, there is still something romantic about it.
Some may argue that “The Cranes” has a dark and morally corrupt ending, but on the other hand one can argue that the couple has a higher form of love. In the story the husband essentially murders his wife, with no regards to the circumstances. In most popular religions murder is the ultimate sin, so some may view this story with disgust. They make the ultimate sacrifice of death, so they can stop living in state that is miserable. They are at a point in their life were living is no longer worth it, he “can hardly get up the goddamn stairs” (197) and she feels that she is “a lot of trouble to everyone” (197). Together they shared a bountiful life full of love and now they have passed on together.
Peter Meinke’s short story “The Cranes” has a powerful message about love. He delivers this message through symbolism with the cranes. As the sweet, old couple in the story views the cranes the similarities between the two are revealed in the story. The rarity of the couple’s love is symbolized through the rare whooping cranes. All of the positive symbolism between the couple and whooping cranes leads to the darker ending. Meinke’s twist in the story was the dual suicide of the couple, there love was so great with each other that they were willing to sacrifice ending it to end their misery of living.

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