Study Guide

Beyond the Pale

by William Trevor Cox

Beyond the Pale Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This tale of four English bridge players who habitually go on a summer holiday excursion to the same lodge in County Antrim, on the coast of Northern Ireland, examines what happens when something disrupts the “casual comedy” to reveal hidden unpleasant undercurrents in their lives. The story’s narrator, Milly, insists on the perfection of the ritualized patterns of the foursome. For many years they have spent the first two weeks of June at Glencorn Lodge, hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Malseed. She notes approvingly that this year things are just the same as always at the lodge, and that all is well. Milly sees little outside the narrow field of her vision. The behavior of the foursome is equally unchanging. They go on drives and walks to the same locations; there is a day when Strafe and Dekko go fishing; they play bridge after dinner; and, most importantly, they maintain a tacit agreement never to talk about each other. Their reserve allows Milly and Major Strafe to carry on their love affair in the evenings after the major’s wife Cynthia retires; the Strafes have separate bedrooms and the lovers assume that Cynthia does not notice them.

On the first night, an unwelcome stranger disrupts this comfortable routine. He is an unhappy young man whom the four friends and the Malseeds feel is out of place. When Milly and the men go walking the next day, Cynthia talks with the young man, who then commits suicide, leaving her terribly upset. The others immediately assume that the...

(The entire section is 608 words.)