(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

From the opening sentences, the story portrays a mental state as well as narrating a series of events; this emphasis on subjectivity means that the impact of events is at least as important as the events themselves. The story’s central consciousness, Miss Josephine Carlson, has been invited by her man George to spend a week at his country place, and the sentence fragments and uncertain grammar of her “voice” hint at both anger and anxiety. In this opening scene, the combination of alcohol and sex with Josie’s lack of options in the relationship sets the stage for all that follows. As preposterous as it might seem at the end of the story, this “fancy woman” wonders whether George loves her, whether she might be the social equal of the white Memphis visitors she meets, and whether George is eventually going to marry her. For her, and her only, this is a “love story.”

The narrative is divided into twelve sections, and each section makes it clearer that George, even when absent from the scene, controls all that goes on. For him, love and marriage are not the issues. One should, however, also note the contrasts between day and night: The events of three nights and three days make up the story and give a sense of progression.

Sections 2 through 5 narrate the events of the first morning when only George, Josie, and the servants are present. In this isolation, Josie reveals her insecurity and defensiveness about her respectability and her lack of power with George—she seems to have only passivity...

(The entire section is 626 words.)