The film is Adult Fear personified.
- Macon remembering having to identify Ethan's body after he was killed execution-style during a robbery in which for some reason the thief felt to Leave No Witnesses. He gazes down and says, numbly, "Yes. That is my son." From Roger Ebert's review:Grief threatens to break his face into pieces, and then something closes shut inside of him. He has always had a very controlled nature, fearful of emotion and revelation, but now a true ice age begins, and after a year his wife tells him she wants a divorce. It is because he cannot seem to feel anything.
- Edward. He becomes a vicious, angry dog because his beloved master left for camp... and never returned. Then Sarah leaves, and she never returns. He refuses to let Macon leave the house because he thinks the same will happen to him, too.
- Macon's refusal to get rid of Edward is simple: he belonged to Ethan.
- Macon coming to see Muriel, to tell her he can't see her anymore, because the death of Ethan's left him unable to feel anymore, and Alexander just makes it tougher. Muriel silently pulls him inside and lets him go to bed with her — literally, as in just sleep in the same bed. They do end up having emotional sex. In the novel, as Muriel sleeps, Macon feels the scar on her stomach from having a Caesarean. To Macon, is as if she's saying, "We all have scars."Macon: Last year, I exp... I lost... I experienced a loss. I lost... I lost my son. He was just... he went into a hamburger joint and someone came, a hold-up man, and shot him. I can't go to dinner with people. I can't... can't talk to their little boys. You have to stop asking me. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I'm just not up to this. Do you hear? Every day, I tell myself it's time to be getting over this - I know that people expect it of me. But if anything I'm getting worse. The first year was like a bad dream; I was there at his bedroom door in the morning before I'd remember he wasn't there to be wakened. The second year is real. I've stopped going to his door. I've sometimes let a whole day go by without thinking about him. I believe Sarah thinks I could have prevented what happened somehow - she's so used to my arranging her life. Now I'm far from everyone. I don't have any friends anymore. And everyone looks trivial and foolish, and not related to me.
- Muriel's What the Hell, Hero? about Macon's intentions when he offers to help with his schoolwork. It's even more poignant in the book, because the reader's learned Macon isn't the first man to be in her life — only to leave her bereft. She has seen Macon and Sarah making eyes at each other during Julian and Rose's wedding, and can see a reconciliation coming, and she's sick of being victim to First Girl Wins.Macon: I mean, who's a perfect couple?
Muriel: You and Sarah, I suppose.
- In the book only, Macon talks to his niece about Ethan. He complains no one ever wants to discuss Ethan around him. The niece informs him that she and his other cousins always talk about him, and wonder what he would think of events in their life. She also tells him that he used to make fun of his dad all the time, which Macon wishes he could have been there for.
- Macon finally letting go of Sarah, even though she wants a reconciliation. It's worse in the book, because the film has her admitting he's right to leave her. In the book, she gives him no such out.
- Macon seeing the French boy who helped him into the taxi, and wondering if Ethan would have grown to be such a boy had he not gotten senselessly murdered, and begins to sob. It's portrayed perfectly in the film's adaptation of the scene.
- Macon seeing Muriel trying to hail a cab. He tells the cabbie to stop for her. She does an amazed Double Take that it's Macon. The novel ends with the lines:A sudden flash of sunlight hit the windshield, and spangles flew across the glass. The spangles were old water spots, or maybe the markings of leaves, but for a moment Macon thought they were something else. They were so bright and festive, for a moment he thought they were confetti.