The story The Cellmate is in essence a tale about two lawless guys in the town of Whitesburg Kentucky. Andy, the moonshine brewer trying to escape the sheriff and Lloyd, the kid accused of murder. Whitesburg Kentucky was not a bustling metropolis in the year of 1925 – but it was and all right town. As Andy puts it “it was the center of trade, law and information.” Andy had to choose a new spot for his still and he knew many others had their stills along the stream, so he wanted to put his still away from the stream, up at a dry ridge. It meant he had to build some sort of pipeline, but it was alright with him – he seems to be the kind of man who wants to go a little extra, to get that little extra. He is also described as a person, who does not give much about authorities. He is somewhat teasing the sheriff and he finds it amusing that he cannot catch him. Lloyd on the other hand is this quiet, shy and special boy. Mostly Andy’s friend Annie’s father had taken care of him in despite of his illegitimacy. No one had ever expected that he could do anything like it. Recently Annie’s father had died and the only thing left for Lloyd, was his chestnut mare and a try to get some kind of acknowledgment from his mother.
One day Andy is arrested by the sheriff, Andy knows he has nothing on him and voluntarily accepts to go to the station with him. Here Andy is put in prison for the night, but he has to stay in the same cell as Lloyd, but this is no problem to him. Andy seems to know that he is more than just a murderer. He even puts up the scenario, that sleeping at the sheriff’s desk is worse because he chews on a toothpick. Which really indicates, that Andy has some sort of trust in Lloyd. They do not talk together; Andy just nods at Lloyd and goes to sleep on his cot. A nod is a gesture, but it is very distant at the same time, as it seems very near. Lloyds chestnut mare was enclosed in a little area behind the town’s blacksmith. From the cell window you could clearly see the gallows, but Lloyd never glanced at them, his look never went past the mare. This little passage in the text, tells all about the character Lloyd – he only cares about his horse. A horse he got from someone who loved him and someone he has lost. It is his last memory of love and the only memory he has of feelings he will never have again – from anyone.
He does not want to let down his mare, and therefore he is very concerned that it will not be taken care of. “Andy opened his eyes at the soft whisper. “I’m sure they’ll take care of her.”” This line changes something in the story, even though we are not told, it is as if Lloyd gets connected with Andy. Finally, for the first time in a long time, someone cares about Lloyd. Andy takes time to comfort him and this really seems to be something big for Lloyd. It is not written anywhere, but in the night, Lloyd puts his own blanket over Andy, who is shivering in the cold. This may not seem like a lot, but to a boy like Lloyd, it truly is. Next day when Andy wakes up, Lloyd is long gone, he has been executed and Andy is free to go again. On his way home, he bought ingredients for his moonshine, but he went to feed the chestnut mare some sugar, as Lloyd had wanted it – a desperate attempt to do something good and repay Lloyd’s humble help in the night.
Andy seems like a fine person throughout the story, he is not a big time criminal, at least he is no murderer just as Lloyd – but this is really just a matter of perspective. Andy is portrayed very calm and he makes an impression on the reader, which is very positive. Lloyd is portrayed as this rather odd figure; he ends up being someone who you cannot trust because of his abnormal behaviour. But in essence, the real problem is, that Lloyd only ends up in prison, because he tries to satisfy his mother. His only support has passed away and then he made one desperate try to get some love into his life. His mother told him to murder someone, to make her happy and this was his only way of making her happy and finally showing her that he was worth something. And for this act, he was sentenced to death penalty. For trying to be loved, by your own mother, just for once, Lloyd sacrifices himself and ends up as the bad guy. He went from being this unknown figure, to be public property – but it was based on false assumptions. He has committed a murder, but more importantly he was guilty in the crime of doing what any human being tries to do: he was trying to be loved – for once.
And on the other hand, we have this lawless criminal, Andy, who enjoys himself with the fact that the sheriff cannot catch him. He is the real bad guy in this story, only because he has no regrets. He is portrayed as a caring guy, but it is only on the outside. He, the real criminal, is just set free again – with no accusations or any kind of trial. He even gets rewarded with the title “the king brewer” and he enjoys it. He who should really be locked up behind bars, end up as the good guy. What he experienced that night. He is a very shallow man, but he might not even realise it himself – just as the reader in this text might not see it. It is a general mistake in society that we hit on those who are easy targets. Lloyd never deserved death penalty; he only deserved someone who loved him and someone who would truly care for him.
In the opening paragraph the whole world is portrayed so very beautiful from Andy’s point of view. Words as shimmering light, in the awe of morning’s beauty and the dew made the ground sparkle really paints a beautiful picture of this “God’s city” of Whitesburg. “The landscape was covered in a wet cloak” may be a metaphor for the fake façade this story puts up. It is like a cloak that hides all the ugly things and twist and twirl our perception of right and wrong. There is also something ironical in the sentence “reaffirmed his belief that this was truly God’s country” – which really stands as a contrast to the fact, that the story is so far away from what God intended with the world. In the ending paragraph Andy decides to feed the horse some of his sugar, even though he says it means he will not have enough for his moonshine. But does this mean he has really changed? He says “He would fix the loose shoe, brush her, and give her a taste of sugar now and then.” Which may mean, that he has an idea of rethinking himself. “fixing the loose shoe” might refer to fixing his own “loose shoes” and make it up for his own wrongs – one can only hope. Andy does show some sort of compassion in the end. After he asked the sheriff who would take care of the horse and he replied that he did not care, it seemed as Andy indentified himself with Lloyd’s problems. One can change and sometimes it involves drastic measures. Just like the population of Whitesburg never understood why Lloyd acted like he did, the reader in this text may never know why Andy acted like he did. It is never too late to grow and it is never too late to acknowledge your own mistakes.