“Flight” tells the story of Pepe, a jovial teenager who is described multiple times as very lazy and easygoing. His mother waits and waits for him to take life more seriously. After committing a murder, however, Pepe is changed, he does become a man, as stated by the narrator. The murder Pepe committed was done using his Father’s knife.
Pepe is often compared to his hardworking father by his mother, who desires for her son to be more like her deceased husband. Pepe wielding his father’s knife is symbolic of the completion of his childhood and entrance into adulthood. He used his knife just as his father had, but he used it to take the life of another. The maternal figure in this story is used by Steinbeck in order to convey the idea of Pepe’s rising power as a man. Pepe’s mother was clearly shown to be his caretaker in the opening of the story. She scolds him, feeds him, and looks after him. However, when Pepe is trusted to go to the city by himself, his mother surrenders her hold on the family. In an attempt to have her boy become a man, she gives him a great responsibility. Pepe eagerly accepts this opportunity, but is confronted with the face of death instead of a small journey. Pepe’s mother put her trust into Pepe, and he did not disappoint her, because in the end, Pepe made the journey and left boyhood behind him.
Steinbeck uses characterization in his attempt to convey the profound change that occurred for Pepe. Once described as a jubilant, lazy teenager, Pepe morphs into a different person. “He was changed,” states the narrator. “There was no laughter in them (eyes) any more nor any bashfulness. They were sharp and bright and more purposeful”. With the light that used to radiate from himself gone, Pepe is forced to leave his home, his brother and sister, and most importantly, his mother. In this absence from the security of his home and family, he is no longer sheltered from the outside world. This realization in Pepe’s life drives the rest of the narrative, which focuses on survival in the outside world after living on the inside for so long.