Study Guide

A Country Love Story

by Jean Stafford

A Country Love Story Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Country Love Story” focuses on a couple, May and her much older husband, Daniel—a college professor recuperating from an illness (presumably tuberculosis)—and their relationship set against the rural isolation of an old house in the country, to which they have just moved to aid in Daniel’s convalescence.

Though the story begins with emphasis on May’s and Daniel’s failure to follow through on their plan to remove an antique sleigh that stands in the yard (a symbol of both erosion and hope that resurfaces throughout the story), on their increasing silence as winter comes on, and on May’s original lack of enthusiasm for the seeming exile from Boston, these negatives are balanced by the couple’s love for the country house, their regained intimacy (“it was like a second honeymoon”), and their mutual pleasure in reading, gardening, and repairing the new home. The crucial change occurs with the arrival of autumn, when Daniel withdraws to his historical research and May finds that she has nothing to fill her days; her complaints elicit from Daniel a heretofore unrecognized tendency toward passive-aggressive behavior. He puts May on the defensive and keeps her there by means of his self-pity, his preoccupation with blame, and his condescending to her as childish.

May does not seem to understand the sources or implications of his changes: His year in the sanitarium Dr. Tellenbach describes as “like living with an exacting...

(The entire section is 428 words.)