Study Guide

Female Trouble

by Antonya Nelson

Female Trouble Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Female Trouble” is told in the third person in a discursive narrative style. The plot, while straightforward, is relayed in a series of short vignettes that describe the drifter McBride’s encounters with the three women with whom he is simultaneously involved: Daisy, Martha, and Claire.

The story opens in February with McBride visiting his former girlfriend, Daisy, a native New Yorker who is now a patient at the Pima County psychiatric hospital in Tucson, Arizona, following a breakdown. Visiting her disturbs both Daisy and McBride, who reflects on their past relationship, especially their sexual encounters and his inability to deal with her and with women in general.

Following his visit, McBride returns to his home, which is the house of his current girlfriend, Martha, who works for the accident victim’s report section of the police department and is also a research assistant who interviews rape victims for a university research project. In contrast to Daisy, the thirty-six-year-old Martha is a capable, artistic woman whom McBride believes “lived among the bizarre in order not to feel so bizarre herself, normal by comparison.” While they are talking, Martha’s neighbor, a transvestite whose name is Alberta, comes out of the house in full dress, and McBride comments on how much work it must take for a man to make himself up like that. Though he lives with Martha, McBride dreams of Daisy and moments of tenderness they shared. He and Martha then begin to talk about Daisy. Though his tender memories fade, he continues to visit Daisy, who reveals to him that she is pregnant, though not with his child.

Martha accompanies McBride on his next visit to see Daisy, and the three of them sit on Adirondack chairs on the hospital grounds and talk. Martha and Daisy discuss Daisy’s pregnancy and women’s aging. Though Martha does not talk about it, McBride is aware that she would like to have a child.

While Martha and Daisy talk, McBride steals into Daisy’s room and inspects her belongings. Another woman patient, Claire, enters the room. She asks McBride if he is also a patient and is relieved to find he is not. They smile, and Claire leaves the room....

(The entire section is 901 words.)