25 pages 50 minutes read

Annie Proulx

55 Miles to the Gas Pump

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1999

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Symbols & Motifs

Gas Pump

The titular gas pump represents the remoteness of the Croom residence and highlights The Dangerous Effects of Isolation. If the gas pump is so far away, it suggests other essentials are as well, including neighbors, shops, school—and the police. Croom lives free from prying eyes and is at liberty to indulge his darkest impulses. By contrast, isolation for Mrs. Croom and especially for her husband’s victims means they have no recourse to justice, no chance of being saved. If they cry for help, there is no one to hear them. If a wife defies her husband, he can respond however he wishes, which perhaps explains why Mrs. Croom never voiced her suspicions about her husband’s activities.

The story’s ironic final sentence emphasizes again the remoteness symbolized by the gas pump and the grievous effects of isolation upon the human psyche. In such a manner, the title and final sentence bookend the story.


Newspaper, mentioned twice in the story, symbolizes civic life and society. Although the Crooms live far from town, they nevertheless read the paper. The presence of the newspaper suggests that the Crooms are perhaps not as remote from society as it may otherwise seem, rendering their flouting of social norms all the more egregious.