25 pages 50 minutes read

Annie Proulx

55 Miles to the Gas Pump

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1999

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “55 Miles to the Gas Pump”

Content Warning: This story includes a suicide and references to the sexual assault and murder of women.

The title speaks to the circumstances of the story’s setting and characters. If the nearest gas pump is 55 miles away, necessities such as school and law enforcement are presumably out of easy reach too, along with any sense of community (neighbors, church, etc.). Connoting rural desolation, the title foreshadows characters accustomed to being on their own—and doing as they please without fear of repercussions. Far from prying eyes, the man is free to indulge his worst impulses, while the woman stands passively by. At just 266 words, the story indicts The Dangerous Effects of Isolation and The Violence of Rigid Gender Norms.

The first paragraph considers Rancher Croom and his volatile life and death. “Rancher Croom in handmade boots and filthy hat,” the story begins, with a narrative perspective that seems removed from the character while also knowing him intimately (Paragraph 1). In referring to him by his job, Proulx evokes an archetype, or even positions him as a fairy-tale character.