The central idea is that man is responsible for defining his own sense of honor. A clear choice between right and wrong does not always exist. The safest decision is not always the easiest to live with. What Dubus seems to be commenting on is the transformation of man as he grows older. At an older age, you learn to accept things you cannot change.
The main character is Mitchell. He is round and dynamic. He is round because the story revolves around him. His thoughts and actions are crucial to the story and are described in great detail. He is dynamic because he changes from a relatively carefree, self-assured man into an impetuous man who feels old and becomes consumed with guilt. After witnessing the rape: 'He did not know what it was like to be very old but he assumed it was like this: fatigue beyond relieving by rest, by sleep.';