Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Fireman’s Wife” suggests the depth and complexity of human feeling that lies beneath the most ordinary facades of life. The story is set in a middle-class suburban neighborhood and focuses on the life of people who do not seem unusual or extraordinary. The men are longtime friends, share professions and hobbies, enjoy Sunday dinners together, and in general live day to day in a relatively automatic and unthinking way.

Jane, the firefighter’s wife, does not seem unusual either, at least on the surface. She has an ordinary job, a circle of friends with whom she is intimate, and aspirations for love, social acceptance, and her own family that are shared by many. Furthermore, she welcomes the routine aspects of her life, even wanting to reinforce them because they keep her from thinking too much about the elements of her life and marriage that disturb her. However, even these annoyances are common enough: She is bored by her in-laws, feels periodically that her husband is a stranger despite two years of shared physical intimacy, and is less than enthusiastic about the pastimes and hobbies that her husband and their friends enjoy.

However, beneath the calm and apparently superficial surface of these characters’ lives, one glimpses profound psychological currents in their dreams, reveries, and unconscious actions. The dreams of Wally and Teddy seem to come from deep wells of uneasiness and are understandable in the light of the...

(The entire section is 456 words.)