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Summaries Of Short Stories Essay

Summary – The bridal party

The story begins in Normandy, sometime around May. The main character, Mike Curly, is introduced, along with the news that his ex-girlfriend, Caroline Dandy, whom he dated for two years, is engaged and will be getting married in Paris. It explains that the two broke up because of Michael’s lack of money. He was devastated and could not let go, evident by his insecurity and the fact that he carried around photographs of her. He also stayed away from other girls, that she would do the same with men. One day outside of a shop, he encounters Caroline and her fiancé, Hamilton Rutherford. Rutherford invites Michael to a string of events, including his bachelor dinner, a party and tea. As they talk, his feelings for her resurge. As they parted ways, Michael feels he will never be happy again. At his hotel, the concierge delivers a telegram, which states that his grandfather died, and that he would be inheriting a quarter of a million dollars. Because of his newly found fortune he seemingly out of nowhere inhereted a sum of confidence,so he decides he will try to win Caroline back with a breakdancing contest between himself and Hamilton.

When he attends one of the parties, he meets Hamilton’s father, and as more people arrive, he feels increasingly inadequate. When he finds Caroline, he is reluctant to tell her about his inheritance. They eventually dance together, and she explains how she is over him and that he should do the same. She says she feels sorry for him, and that she needs someone like Hamilton to make all the decisions. Gathering enough nerve, Michael writes to Hamilton to confront him about his intentions and asks him to meet in the bar of a hotel. Michael arrives and overhears Hamilton talking to another man about how easy it is to control a woman, and that you cannot stand for any nonsense—adding, there are hardly any men who possess their wives anymore and that he is going to be one of them. Michael becomes outraged and questions his out of date attitude. Hamilton strikes back, saying that Michael is too soft. Eventually Hamilton says goodbye and leaves.

Michael rolls up at the next party with spicy, legit clothes. A woman, Marjorie Collins, shows up and demands to speak to Hamilton, threatening to cause a scene. Michael avoids the drama and goes to see Caroline at her hotel. They argue about how Hamilton treats her, and Michael eventually confesses his love for her. He tries to explain to her he has money now and that his love for her is true and how he can’t survive without her. Caroline does not seem to care and she notices he has new, expensive clothes. At this point, Michael tells her about his inheritance. “I have the money, my grandfather left me about a quarter of a million dollars.” quoted from Micheal. “How perfectly well! I can’t tell you how glad i am… you were always a person who ought to have money.” quoted from Caroline.

Hamilton returns from the party and explains that the woman who tried to blackmail him gave him a secret code to a telegram stating that she has herpes and that he needs to get checked out by a doctor. As he opens a telegram, he discovers that all of his fortunes are gone, because he had stuck with a mistake for too long. At the point when Caroline could decide to stay with Hamilton, or leave him for a newly rich Michael, she surprisingly chooses Hamilton. Michael attends the ceremony, and he learns from an acquaintance, George Packman, that a man had offered Hamilton a substantial salaried job right before the wedding. As the reception carries on, Michael realizes that he has not thought of Caroline for hours, and that he was cured from his inability to move on. He is no longer bitter, and the story concludes with him wondering which bridesmaid he should have a scrabble match with that night.

Historical Parts

The Jazz Age represented a break with tradition, due to the feeling of disconnect created by modernity. It was the “decade of prosperity, excess and abandon, which began after the end of World War I and ended with the 1929 stock market crash.”2 Fitzgerald was included in theLost Generation, a group of U.S. writers who grew up during the war and created their literary reputations in the 1920s. They were “lost” because in the postwar world, the values that were passed on to them seemed irrelevant. They possessed a spiritual alienation from a country that appeared to be “provincial, materialistic and emotionally barren.”3 As James L. West, Penn State Fitzgerald scholar, said, “He [Fitzgerald] saw with considerable accuracy, the excesses and gaudiness of American society in the modern era—but he saw the great willingness of the heart that’s also deeply American.”


Summary – Babylon revisited
The story is set in the year after the crash of the 1929, just after what
Fitzgerald called the “Jazz Age”. Brief flashbacks take place in the Jazz age itself. Much of it is based on the author’s own experiences.

Basis in real life

The story is based on a true incident regarding Fitzgerald, his and his wife Zelda’s daughter “Scottie”, and Zelda’s sister Rosalind and her husband Newman Smith (a banker based in Belgium, who as a colonel in the U.S. Army in World War II would be in charge of worldwide strategic deception for the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff), on whom Marion and Lincoln Peters are based. Rosalind and Newman had not been able financially to live as well as Scott and Zelda had lived during the 1920s, and they had always regarded Scott as an irresponsible drunkard whose obsession with high living was responsible for Zelda’s mental problems. When Zelda suffered a breakdown and was committed to a sanitarium in Switzerland, Rosalind felt that Scott was unfit to raise their daughter and that Rosalind and Newman should adopt her.[1]


“Babylon Revisited” begins with Charlie Wales, an American expatriate who has returned in 1930 to Paris, the site of much drinking and partying on his part during the 1920s. Since thestock market crash of 1929, Charlie has sobered up and now looks with a combination of amazement and disgust at the extravagant lifestyle he lived.

Charlie’s first visit in Paris is to the Ritz bar he used to frequent in his wild days. He asks after many of his former party-friends but finds that Paris is largely empty compared to several years earlier. He leaves an address with the barman to give to friend named Duncan Schaeffer. Since Charlie hasn’t settled on a hotel yet, he leaves the address of his brother-in-law’s house. He then wanders through Paris and sees all the hotspots he used to frequent during the extravagant days of the twenties. Everything looks different to him now that he’s sober and doesn’t have the money he used to.

As the story progresses, we learn that Charlie is back in town to try to regain custody of his daughter Honoria, who is currently staying with his sister-in-law and her husband. Charlie’s deceased wife Helen died a little over a year ago from heart trouble. At the time, Charlie was in a sanatorium having suffered a collapse. Though we don’t get all the details, we see that Charlie was, perhaps among other things, recovering from alcoholism. Now he only has one drink per day, so that the idea of alcohol doesn’t get too big in his mind.

We learn that Charlie has a pretty bad relationship with his sister-in-law, Marion Peters, who blames him for her sister Helen’s death. She is resistant to the idea of allowing him to take Honoria home with him, but Charlie eventually wins her over with his patience and insistence that he is reformed. They make plans for him to leave shortly with Honoria.

Meanwhile, two of Charlie’s old party friends, Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, who are still living the drunken lifestyle, have been trying to get him to go out drinking with them. Charlie resists, as he’s left behind the wild days of running around Paris drunk. On the night when Charlie is at the Peters’ finalizing plans to take Honoria home, Lorraine and Duncan show up, drunk, begging him to come out with them. Marion sees that Charlie is still associating with the party crowd, and so she goes back on her offer to let him take his daughter back. Charlie is baffled as to how Duncan and Lorraine found him, and either doesn’t remember or refuses to acknowledge that he left the Peters’ address for Duncan at the Ritz bar.

Charlie leaves the Peters’ house and returns to the Ritz bar, where he has his one drink for the day and refuses to have a second one. He plans to try and get Honoria back again, perhaps six months from now when Marion has calmed down. He wonders how long he’ll have to pay for the destructive lifestyle he used to live.

Babylon Revisited Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Charlie is back in Paris.

We know that Charlie is revisiting Paris and stopping by his old haunts while he’s there. As he talks with the barman, we get hints of his past, but the central conflict has yet to be introduced.


Charlie wants his daughter back.
This is about as classic plot as it gets. Charlie wants something; it’s not going to be easy to get it. Obstacles stand in his way; Charlie struggles against the obstacles standing in his way.


Charlie’s past is calling him.

And leaving him nagging letters at his hotel. The story is complicated by a number of different things. Duncan and Lorraine are the obvious choice, but Charlie’s past calls to him in other ways, like in the vague sense of nostalgia we get from his reminiscences. And don’t forget about the reader’s doubt as to Charlie’s “transformation.” We don’t know if he’s totally recovered yet, which complicates our understanding of his character and our instinctive desire to root for him against the odds.


Duncan and Lorraine crash the non-party.
In terms of plot, we’ve been building towards this moment ever since Charlie left his brother-in-law’s address at the hotel. It’s clearly the dramatic climax of the story as well; emotions run high as Charlie tries to hide his anger, deal with his anxiety, and placate the horrified Marion.


Has Charlie lost Honoria?
The decision is not yet final when Charlie leaves the Peters’ house, but we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen. Part of the suspense is that we wonder if Charlie will start drinking again after he loses his daughter.


Charlie has lost Honoria.
We thought as much. What is surprising about this ending is that Charlie does not take a second drink. He sticks by his one-drink-per-day rule, despite the fact that he’s lost his daughter, the emblem of his new future. Why he doesn’t is a tricky question, and one that we address in his “Character Analysis.”


They can’t make him pay forever.
But Charlie has to wonder for how much longer this atonement can go on. At the same time, Fitzgerald is asking how much longer he and his generation will have to pay for their own extravagance in the 1920s. There is a grim tone, here, as Fitzgerald anticipates that the worst may be yet to come.

My Oedipus complex – Frank o ’Connor
At a glance:
First Published: 1950
Type of Plot: Psychological
Time of Work: 1918
Setting: Cork, Ireland
Characters: Larry Delaney, Mick Delaney, Mrs. Delaney, Sonny Genres: Psychological fiction, Short fiction
Subjects: Family or family life, Parents and children, Jealousy, envy, or resentment, Fathers, World War I, Comedy, Sympathy Locales: Cork, Ireland

Short plot

The story begins in retrospection. The adult Larry remembers his idyllic and blissful early childhood at home with his mother while his father was away during World War I. Larry, confident of his mother’s full attention, accompanied her throughout each day, prayed unfailingly for his father’s safe return, and urged his mother to brighten up the house by bringing home a baby. This Edenic existence is abruptly lost when his father returns home from the war.

My Oedipus Complex

Frank O’Connor is generally regarded as one of the century’s great short storywriters. Indeed Yeats remarked of him that he was “doing for Ireland what Chekhov had done for Russia.” He chiefly concerned himself with what he called the “literature of submerged population groups”, by which he meant those characters who seem to be on the margins of society – children, teachers, priests, etc. His stories grapple with the nature of loneliness and individuality, and show how they express themselves in the ordinary course of events. We often get the feeling that though his characters have a strong sense of language, they can’t quite verbalise their predicament in such a way that they can adequately respond to them.

Suppressed passions, conflict in the home and family, marital problems, religion and social custom are all dealt with in a manner that conveys O’Connor’s sensitivities and his deep understanding of the plight of ordinary people, combined with his relish for the well-turned phrase. At their best, O’Connor’s stories manage to join tragedy, comedy and often farce in a seamless whole. In that respect this collection of short stories is very representative of O’Connor’s work. For O’Connor, the whole of the human comedy is played out in the lives of ordinary characters. This concern with the ordinary is combined with a poetical vision and a lyrical turn of phrase, to produce a skilfully crafted body of work.


Some of the stories in this collection are written from the perspective of the first person. The voice of the writer is obviously Frank O Connor himself. This makes it more realistic and effective. The tone of the stories is permeated with humorous touches. There are vivid and realistic insights into characters. The dialogue is very realistic and well written. A lot of it is taken from the type of English spoken in country areas such as the West of Ireland. The writer succeeds in drawing some very graphic pictures of the characters through description and effective dialogue.

General Vision or Viewpoint

All of the stories deal in some way with relationships and the various misunderstandings or treacheries involved. The overall vision in the stories underlines the contradictions and humour in the Irish psyche. The amusement and many times the duplicity underlining love affairs is apparent from a good deal of the stories.

My Oedipus Complex

The overall vision of this story underlines clearly the humour evident in the Irish character. The narrator’s ambiguous relationship with both his mother and father is resolved in a humorous way with the birth of a new child and the ousting of the father from his rightful position in the home. The complexities governing relationships together with failed expectations in the various characters involved becomes clearly evident throughout this story.

Social Context

The short stories are set in Dublin and throughout various parts of the country Cork and Connemara in the early part of the 20th century. The setting is mainly Irish working class. There are some vivid glimpses rural Ireland in the mid twentieth century. Catholicism is a strong feature in the lives of these people. People attend mass and practice the sacraments regularly. There are many references to the lifestyle at that time in Ireland – paraffin lamps, thatched cottages, and turf fires. The pub is an important focal point socially for people.

Themes and Issues

O’Connor explores the clash of private and public morality in both The Majesty of the Law and In the Train. In the Train is a dark exploration of the clash of traditional moral codes with an imposed civil law, its brooding atmosphere owing a lot to Isaac Babel, according to O’Connor the writer who influenced him most. The villagers are easily prepared to perjure themselves under oath to free a woman accused of murder because, as one character says, “there was never an informer in my family”, and also so they can punish her themselves with “the hunt”. They will ostracise her and cast her out of the village.

Honour and the Law

In The Majesty of the Law, it is easy to see that O’Connor admires the strong personal code of tradition and honour that animates Dan Bride; though it is obvious that old Dan himself is reckless and stubborn. He would rather go to jail to shame his enemy than pay a fine. Interwoven with this is a great deal of comedy with both Dan and the sergeant enjoying illegally distilled poiteen while studiously and politely avoiding the real object of the sergeant’s visit. Indeed, when the sergeant must return to inform Dan that he has to go to jail, he asks “would it be suitable for you now?” and they decide a date that would also allow Dan to get some “messages” done in town. This story also highlights O’Connor’s concern at the loss of traditional civility in society; even the sergeant has no love of the law that he must uphold.

City and country

The theme of the clash of city and country is pursued in such stories as Bridal Night and Uprooted. These stories display the loneliness and indeed the madness engendered when, as in the former, a lonely country boy falls hopelessly in love with a city school teacher, and in the latter when two brothers leave the country for the city, one as a priest and the other as a teacher. Both brothers become alienated from their homes and suffer loneliness and unfulfilled dreams.

Youth and adolescence

O’Connor’s other great theme of youth and adolescence is explored in stories such as My Oedipus Complex, Genius, First Confession andFirst Love where he expertly describes the early jealousies, fears and complexes that can blight young lives. This is often done in a coy and humorous fashion as in My Oedipus Complex, where he plays with Freud much like a child kicking a ball. We are left with a profound sense of O’Connor’s gentleness in dealing with his characters – as he said, “I can’t imagine anything better in the world than people.”


The short stories in the collection My Oedipus Complex gives some insight into the different types of relationships that can unfold in life. From the complex relationship between the narrator and his two parents in the actual story My Oedipus Complex, to the authentic friendship between the police sergeant and Dan Bride in the story The Majesty of the Law, the writer outlines the extraordinary richness that constitutes human relationships. Many of the stories deal with relationships between adolescents, or the complex relationships between an adolescent and those around him. Thus for example, we are given amusing pictures of Jackie’s attempts to go to confession under the bullying pressure of his sister Nora in the story My First Confession.

Later on, as the story develops, we witness the strong bond of friendship that Jackie develops with the local parish priest. Another story, The Paragon, traces the ambiguous or questionable relationship between Jimmy and his two parents who are separated. This story traces how Jimmy, the ideal of a perfect son in the eyes of his mother, changes when he meets his father in England and begins to drink and abandon his studies. He takes some time to discover himself and exactly what he wants to do after causing great suffering to his mother. The volume of short stories highlights many different types of relationship – between young lovers, relationships in family life, relationships between father and son or mother and daughter. All these relationships deal with Irish people in rural and city settings. All show the need in the characters to love and be loved in return. These stories are written with a great deal of sensitivity and insight.

Heroes, Heroines and Villains

Hero: Many of the heroes in this volume of short stories are young men in their adolescence struggling to gain their independence in life and find happiness and love in relationships and later on in marriage. Larry is the hero or the main character in the amusing story The Genius. He is idolised and protected by his mother and regarded as a little genius in school. The story dramatises his innocent relationship and his attempts to impress her. Jackie and the priest are the two heroes in My First Confession. The hero in the story My Oedipus Complex is the narrator who struggles to become reconciled to the return of his father from war.

He is a young child who has become very possessive of his mother in his father’s absence and who sees his dad as an intruder. Heroine: The mother is undoubtedly the heroine of the story My Oedipus Complex Villain: The villain is undoubtedly the dad in the story My Oedipus Complex. In the eyes of he narrator his return is a disaster and a cause for action. The narrator tries to make life awkward for his father much to the amusement of the reader but the dismay of his mother. The villain of the story My First Confession is obviously Nora who persecutes Jackie.

My Oedipus complex – another summary

My Oedipus Complex – essay

Although it would appear that the father in My Oedipus Complex is the one in control, it is really the mother. The story focuses on Larry getting used to his father being back from the war and how it affects his relationship with his mother. Larry is no longer the only one in the house for his mother to
focus on and worry about. This story does not express the male dominance in social order, which is particularly noticeable and odd when considering that the story takes place just after World War. During that time, men held more power over woman than today.

Though at times it seems that the mother is desperately trying to please the father, she is really only drawing attention to herself. There are many times in the story that the mother says, “Just a moment, Larry ” or “Do be quiet, Larry ”(2). By saying those types of things, she is only increasing the competitiveness between Larry and his father. Pushing Larry away in those situations makes him more envious of the attention his mother is giving his father and makes him try harder to get that same attention. When the mother says “Don’t wake Daddy ” she is not saying it for the benefit of the father but rather herself. When the father is sleeping and it is just her and Larry, there is no question that she is the one in control. During this time, the mother is able to exercise her authority freely.

Because Larry and his father compete for the mother’s attention, it gives her the upper hand. Since both are so desperate for that attention, they will do anything to get it. This means that whatever the mother wants, she gets, which gives her power. Larry wants his mother’s attention so badly he will even taunt his father to make him jealous. Saying things to his mother like, “I’m going to marry you.”and “we’re going to have lots and lots of babies.”(7) Rather than the mother saying something to help him understand that he could never do that, she just goes along with it.

Although such outrageous statements were surely thought of as funny, on some level it probably made the father a bit jealous, which the mother most likely expected. As the story proceeds, it becomes even more clear that the mother is the one in control. When she gives birth to a baby boy named Sonny, Larry and his father are forced to compete for her attention not just with each other but also with the baby. The mother is in such control by the end of the story that she even has the power to kick the father out of bed for the baby.

It is clear that the mother was in full control throughout the whole story. It is because of Larry and the father’s desperation for her attention that she had the upper hand. As the story went on, her control only increased, especially after the arrival of Sonny. This was unusual because there was no sign of the typical male dominance in social order. It is especially odd when considering the era that this story takes place since, during that time, males tended to be more dominant.

The Gift of the Magi
Short plot

Delia and Jim Young, the main characters in “The Gift of the Magi,” are a young married couple with very little money. Jim has suffered a thirty-percent pay cut, and the two must scrimp for everything. On the day before Christmas, Delia counts the money she has painstakingly saved for months. She is dismayed to find she has less than two dollars, hardly enough to buy anything at all. After a good long cry, Delia determines to find a way to buy Jim the present he deserves. As she looks into a mirror, an idea comes to her.


How It All Goes Down
The story opens with $1.87. That’s all Della Dillingham Young has to buy a present for her beloved husband, Jim. And the next day is Christmas. Faced with such a situation, Della promptly bursts into tears on the couch, which gives the narrator the opportunity to tell us a bit more about the situation of Jim and Della. The short of it is they live in a shabby flat and they’re poor. But they love each other.

Once Della’s recovered herself, she goes to a mirror to let down her hair and examine it. Della’s beautiful, brown, knee-length hair is one of the two great treasures of the poor couple. The other is Jim’s gold watch. Her hair examined, Della puts it back up, sheds a tear, and bundles up to head out into the cold. She leaves the flat and walks to Madame Sofronie’s hair goods shop, where she sells her hair for twenty bucks. Now she has $21.87 cents.

With her new funds, Della is able to find Jim the perfect present: an elegant platinum watch chain for his watch. It’s $21, and she buys it. Excited by her gift, Della returns home and tries to make her now-short hair presentable (with a curling iron). She’s not convinced Jim will approve, but she did what she had to do to get him a good present. When she finishes with her hair, she gets to work preparing coffee and dinner.

Jim arrives at 7pm to find Della waiting by the door and stares fixedly at her, not able to understand that Della’s hair is gone. Della can’t understand quite what his reaction means.

After a little while, Jim snaps out of it and gives Della her present, explaining that his reaction will make sense when she opens it. Della opens it and cries out in joy, only to burst into tears immediately afterward. Jim has given her the set of fancy combs she’s wanted for ages, only now she has no hair for them. Jim nurses Della out of her sobs. Once she’s recovered she gives Jim his present, holding out the watch chain. Jim smiles, falling back on the couch. He sold his watch to buy Della’s combs, he explains. He recommends they put away their presents and have dinner. As they do so, the narrator brings the story to a close by pronouncing that Della and Jim are the wisest of everyone who gives gifts.

They are the magi. Love

Love, generosity, and the various definitions of wealth and poverty are central themes in “The Gift of the Magi,” in which a poor, loving young husband and wife sell the only valuable things they own to give each other special Christmas gifts. Delia Young sells her beautiful hair to buy Jim a platinum watch chain, and Jim sells his heirloom watch to buy Delia some tortoise-shell hair combs. These gifts are useless, in one sense; Delia cannot wear her combs without her hair, and Jim, without his watch, cannot use his watch chain.

Summary of the colonel’s lady

Colonel George Peregrine’s comfortable life is disturbed when his wife writes a bestselling raunchy novel. When he finally reads it, he becomes convinced that she has been having an affair.

The Colonel’s Lady’ by William Somerset Maugham

The Colonel’s Lady by William Somerset Maugham is a short story about Colonel George Peregrine and his reaction to a successful book of poems entitled When Pyramids Decay by E.K. Hamilton. It just so happens that the poetess is his own wife, Eva, who published the book under her maiden name. At first, the Colonel thinks nothing of his wife’s poems, treating her work with indifference. But, when Eva’s poems turn out to be quite a success both in bookstores and in the eyes of the literary critiques, he pays greater attention to her written words. It so transpires that the author describes a long lost clandestine relationship with a younger man.

He soon becomes jealous even though the Colonel “supposed he’d been in love with her when he asked her to marry him, at least sufficiently in love for a man who wanted to marry and settle down, but with time he discovered that they had nothing much in common.” Although, he, himself, was cheating on his wife with Daphne, a girl “with whom he was in the habit of passing a few agreeable hours whenever he went to town,” the Colonel feels hurt by his wife’s confessed betrayal. What is the Colonel going to do, it rests with the readers to find out by themselves. William Somerset Maugham was an English short story writer, playwright, and novelist who was born in 1876. He died in France in 1965.

Another plot summary

Eve, the wife of Colonel George Peregrine, writes a book of love poems which is a huge success. Eve is soon in demand everywhere, but her book seems to include revelations about her love life, and it has a disastrous effect on her marriage. The colonel is anxious to find out the identity of the young man Eve’s poems were addressed to – and when she tells him, the truth hits hard. LESS

Mrs. Bixby and the colonel’s coat
1-Where did Mrs. Bixby go once a month?

Mrs. Bixby and her husband, a dentist, live in a flat .Once a month, for years, (eigth years she went by) Mrs Bixby would get on the train at Pennsylvania Station and travel to Baltimore, supposedly visiting her old aunt, meanwhile she is having an affair with the Colonel One day, Mrs. Bixby gets a rare and expensive present from the Colonel: a black, lustrous, and quite extravagant mink coat. A letter from the Colonel that came in the box with the coat informs Mrs. Bixby that they can no longer see each other, and suggests she tells her husband the mink coat was a present from her aunt for Christmas. She is clearly in despair as she reads the letter. Mrs. Bixby however knows that her aunt is far too poor to be given credit for the purchase of the coat, and is intent on keeping it. She decides to go to a pawn-broker, and sells the coat for $50. The pawn-broker gives her a pawn ticket, which she declines to mark with any kind of name, or description.

The ticket does however guarantee her right to claim the coat at any time. She tells her husband that she found the pawn ticket in the taxi, and he decides it would be best if he redeemed the ticket, in spite of Mrs. Bixby’s pleas. The next day Mr. Bixby goes to the pawn shop to redeem the ticket and claim the object it stands for. Mrs. Bixby gets her all excited about it and rushes to her husband’s office after he’s claimed it. Just before she opens her eyes to see it, he says ” It’s real mink!”. She then opens her eyes to find it is mink, but that it is merely a small, mangy stole, and not her coat. Mr. Bixby notes both that he will be coming home late that night, and that since he spent $50 redeeming the ticket, that he will not be able to buy Mrs. Bixby a Christmas present.

Mrs. Bixby is initially angry at the pawn-broker, thinking that he cheated her and kept the coat. But as Mrs. Bixby leaves her husband’s office a few moments later, Miss Pulteney the secretary walks proudly out of the office, wearing the black and rare mink coat that the Colonel gave to Mrs. Bixby. It is implied that Mr. Bixby is having an affair with Miss Pulteney and decided to give her the coat, buying a tacky fur hat for his wife instead. This short story was filmed as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and was the Season 6 opener, originally broadcast on 9/27/1960 and directed by Hitchcock.

Another Plot/Description

Some sources refer to this as a “story-within-a-story”, but I wouldn’t go so far. It’s more like a story with a little stitched-on introduction. Critics like to point to this tale as yet another example of Dahl’s misogyny, but it’s actually quite different for a husband to win against a wife in his work (see “Lamb to the Slaughter” or “The Way Up to Heaven”). Interesting note: the official Dahl site launched with a typo that referred to the story as “Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Cat.” Sorta changes things, doesn’t it? *grin* Spoiler Warning! Dahl introduces the story by commenting on the ruthless practice of American woman marrying men, using them, and divorcing them just for financial gain. He claims that these poor overworked men meet in bars and console themselves with tales in which cuckolded men win one over the evil forces of femininity. The most famous of these stories is “Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat”, which is about a hard-working dentist and his duplicitous wife.

Mrs. Bixby leaves home once a month ostensibly to visit her aunt in Baltimore, but really she spends the time with her lover, the Colonel. On this particular occasion she receives a parting gift from the Colonel, and when she opens it on the train home she is amazed to find an extremely beautiful and valuable mink coat. In a note the Colonel explains that their relationship has to end, but Mrs. Bixby is consoled by the thought of her fabulous new possession. Immediately she begins scheming and trying to think of a story she can tell her husband about where she obtained it. She decides to visit a pawnbroker and borrow $50 against the coat, receiving a blank pawn ticket in return. When she gets home she tells her husband that she found the ticket in a taxicab and he excitedly explains how they go about claiming it.

Since she doesn’t want to be recognized by the pawnbroker, she lets him go to claim the item after he promises that he’ll give whatever it is to her. He calls her from work the next day to let her know that he has the item, and that she’s going to be really surprised and happy. Mrs. Bixby is too eager to wait, so she goes to her husband’s office to pick up the coat. Imagine her surprise, then, when her husband places a mangy mink stole around her neck! She feigns happiness for his sake, while secretly planning to return to the pawnbroker and accuse him of switching the coat for this worthless item. On her way out of the office, though, she is passed by her husband’s young assistant secretary, Miss Pulteney… wearing the “beautiful black mink coat that the Colonel had given to Mrs. Bixby.”

Roman Fever
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the disease, see Roman Fever (disease).
“Roman Fever”
Edith Wharton
United States
Publication date

Roman Fever is a short story by American writer Edith Wharton. It was first published in the magazine Liberty in 1934, and was later included in Wharton’s last short-story collection, The World Over[1].

Plot summary

The protagonists are Grace Ansley and Alida Slade, two middle-aged American women who are visiting Rome with their daughters, Barbara Ansley and Jenny Slade. Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade grew up in Manhattan, New York, and were friends from childhood. A romantic rivalry in their youth led Mrs. Slade to nurture feelings of jealousy and hatred against Mrs. Ansley. In the opening pages of the story, the two women compare their daughters and reflect on each other’s lives. Eventually, Mrs. Slade reveals a secret about a letter written to Mrs. Ansley on an earlier visit to Rome, many years ago. The letter was purportedly from Mrs. Slade’s fiancé, Delphin, inviting Mrs. Ansley to a rendezvous at the Colosseum.

In fact, Mrs. Slade had written the letter, in an attempt to get Mrs. Ansley out of the way of the engagement by disappointing her with Delphin’s absence (and, it is implied, to get Mrs. Ansley sick with Roman Fever). Mrs. Ansley is upset at this revelation, but reveals that she was not left alone at the Colosseum—she responded to the letter, and Delphin arrived to meet her. Mrs. Slade eventually states that Mrs. Ansley ought not feel sorry for her, because “I had [Delphin] for twenty-five years” while Mrs. Ansley had “nothing but a letter he didn’t write.” Mrs. Ansley responds, in the last sentence of the story, “I had Barbara.” This implies that Barbara is an illegitimate child she had with Delphin.


The setting of the story takes place in the afternoon, in the city of Rome. Two wealthy middle-aged widowed women are visiting Rome with their two bachelorette daughters. The exotic setting illustrates the power and class from which the women hail, but the Old Rome context, such as the Colosseum, insinuates Roman Empire-style intrigue.


Power struggle for those in the upper classes: Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley vie for engagement to Mr. Slade. The eventual Mrs. Slade tries to remove Mrs. Ansley from the picture with a false letter inviting the latter to a night rendezvous. While the plan backfires for Mrs. Slade because her eventual husband actually meets with Mrs. Ansley, Mrs. Slade still marries her beau, but it seems the soon-to-be Mrs. Ansley actually bears Mr. Slade’s daughter, Barbara. Betrayal and deception: The two chief characters use subterfuge and machination in order to improve their engagement prospects as youths. Grudges: And in their middle age, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley introduce decades-old surprises, surprising for two characters seemingly so similar in proximity, age, and class.

Representation of Female Relationships

Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade have a bittersweet relationship filled with envy, betrayal, and competition. Through the story “Roman Fever,” they compare their lifelong battle for one man, Delphin Slade, and now quarrel regarding who has the more impressive daughter, both of whom, ironically, share the same father.

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