Test | Study Guide

Theodore Thomas

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The Sleeping Girl

The sleeping girl is a young woman who rides in the passenger seat of the car that crashes into Robert's car. Robert does not know her or the man who is driving, but he is moved by "the trust in the face of the sleeping girl." The story does not specify whom she trusts, which allows her trust to become a powerful force that unites her with Robert. Logically the reader is aware that the sleeping girl's trust must be placed in the driver of her car, because she does not know Robert and is unaware of his individual presence. Her trust is not personal to Robert, but she does trust Robert. The act of sleeping in a moving vehicle places trust in the driver of that vehicle as well in the driver of every other vehicle on the road. Safety on a highway requires cooperative discipline and trust. The sleeping girl symbolizes this communal trust that all drivers and passengers place in one another. Robert is moved by her trust because his car—driving down the wrong side of the highway after spinning out of control—is currently violating that trust and will cause her death.

The Two Grooves in the Floor

Robert notices the two grooves in the floor when the two men in long white coats drag him out of the testing room. As they drag him, his knees are stiff and the rubber soles of his shoes drag along the floor, following along "the two grooves worn in the floor." The grooves indicate that he is not the first person to be dragged out of the room in this manner. In fact it is so frequent an occurrence that the dragging feet of people like him—who fail the test and are sent away for treatment—have worn ruts into the floor. The two grooves represent the many people who have met the same fate and symbolize the problematic design of the test, which is meant to be the final step before obtaining a driver's license but is designed to prevent people from wanting and having a driver's license.

Robert's Mother

Robert's mother symbolizes the guilt that Robert will feel if he causes an accident. His mother is described as a peaceful passenger who rides along with him, perfectly content. She is an innocent person who relies upon Robert's driving skills. Her scream constantly echoes in Robert's head so that he is aware of her suffering and her potential impending death. When he wakes up, Robert feels bad for the sleeping girl and the man in the other car, but he says that his mother's death would be "worst of all." The driving test incorporates Robert's mother to increase the drama and the efficacy of the hypnotic simulation.

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