Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This might be a story of domestic realism were it not for the predominance of social manners as determiners of character and behavior. Grace and Ralph are not free to love each other in the present, nor will they cement a solid relationship after marriage. Both are too bound up in the expectations they believe their peers have for them. They act not as they choose to—or even to please each other—but in blind accordance with the role prescribed for them by time, place, and circumstance. They have no sense of what is good or right, only what is conventional.

Many of Richard Yates’s stories and novels unfold in three parts: fear, hope, and disappointment. This story is no exception. Early in the tale, Yates reveals that both bride and groom fear marriage, their choice of mate, and their amorphous future direction. However, when Grace dons her negligee, she hopes for a connection if not with Ralph, at least with the romantic dream she has assimilated from films and paperback novels. Her dreams, however, are to go unfulfilled. Ralph is too caught up in his desire for acceptance by other men to grasp the message Grace tries to send him. Grace resigns herself to this disappointment and—by implication—a future of still more disappointments.

This is a typical Yates story. His characters act without awareness of their motivations. Yates neither explains nor moralizes. He simply reports on actions lacking either substance or purpose. He has...

(The entire section is 508 words.)