Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In her fiction, Antonya Nelson writes of relationships among men and women, parents and children, siblings, and members of all manner of extended families. Her recurrent themes are those of loss, loneliness, and disintegration. The title “Female Trouble” plays on the pun of the characters’ dual troubles. McBride has his “female trouble” with the women he is involved with just as the women have trouble with their own female nature and all its attendant biological and emotional angst.

The theme of troubles and struggling is foregrounded in the opening paragraph with McBride visiting Daisy in the psychiatric hospital. How she got there is unclear; however, that she, like McBride, has always been somewhat of a drifter is indicated by the narrator, who relates that McBride had discovered her “on the highway near the Triple T truckstop carrying a portable typewriter, trying to hitch a ride” outside Salt Lake City, where McBride had hoped she would stay. However, she has shown up in Tucson, where McBride has somehow managed to increase his female trouble by developing a relationship with Martha.

Though McBride clearly views women primarily as sexual objects, he nevertheless is drawn to their stabilizing power, and so he appears, for the length of the story, to be dependent on Martha, whose placidity and solicitiousness, as well as her willingness to share her bed and her home with him, earns her the role of the most “trouble-free”...

(The entire section is 422 words.)