Study Guide

How I Met My Husband

by Alice Munro

How I Met My Husband Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A red-and-silver plane lands at the old fairgrounds across the road from the home of the Peebles, for whom Edie works. Edie’s first close-up view of an airplane leads to her first encounter with romance.

Edie is both eager for and rather innocent about romance. She is quite proudly aware of her blossoming womanhood, and the day after the plane lands, Edie gets the impulse to dress herself up in Mrs. Peebles’s finery, put on makeup, and play the part of a sophisticated beauty while Mrs. Peebles is out for the afternoon. This is how she is discovered by Chris Watters, who is looking for a drink of cool water from the pump. Edie is embarrassed but also irresistibly attracted to the pilot when he tells her she looks beautiful.

That attraction leads Edie to cross the road that same night. Chris Watters has finished giving airplane rides for the day and shares a smoke with his young visitor. Edie, concerned that Mrs. Peebles will discover her improprieties of the afternoon, convinces Watters to promise not to say anything about the dress-up episode. Her short visit reinforces her impression that she is somehow special to the friendly pilot.

Their casual relationship continues as the pilot regularly stops by for drinks of water. One day Alice Kelling shows up, guided to the Peebles’s place by the ever-present Loretta Bird. Edie critically notes that Alice is neither young nor pretty, that her bust looks low and bumpy, that she has a worried face, and that her engagement ring features but a single, tiny stone. That night Alice and Chris go off somewhere in her car. Much later, through the slats of her blind, Edie watches them come home. She is not unhappy to observe them get out of opposite sides of the car and walk away from each other.

When Alice accompanies the Peebles on a picnic to the lake the next day, Edie bakes Chris a cake and learns that he has decided to pull up stakes and make his getaway. The visit turns into a rousing but tender farewell party. It becomes Edie’s initiation in physical intimacy with a man. The pilot sensibly does not allow his urges full rein; when they say goodbye, he promises Edie that he will write to her.

Later that evening, Alice discovers that her fiancé has left. To her own surprise, Edie lies for him, but also for herself, saying that Chris has flown to another nearby field. Alice becomes suspicious of this sexy young girl; in response to Mrs. Peebles’s questions, Edie readily admits to intimacy with Watters. Alice explodes in rage and sobs; Loretta, cliché-loaded and always functioning as a kind of parodic Greek chorus, comments that all men are the same; and Mrs. Peebles finally discovers that, to Edie, being intimate meant kissing.

Throughout the summer and well into the fall, six days a week, Edie waits at the mailbox for the promised letter, but the letter never comes. Finally, Edie’s absolute faith in the promised letter crumbles and her heart turns to lead. She stops meeting the mail, for she refuses to become like so many other women who wait all their lives for something that never comes.

Then, however, the mailman calls and says he has missed her. They begin to go out, and after two years become engaged. They marry, have children, and find happiness.

How I Met My Husband Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

A typical early story, “How I Met My Husband” introduces a young girl’s initiation into adulthood, as narrated by her mature self, and exemplifies the double vision frequently found in Munro’s work.

When Edie, a naïve farm girl and high-school dropout, is hired as a maid by the new veterinarian, Dr. Peebles, she is awed by his home’s modern conveniences: pink bathroom fixtures, an automatic washer, ice cubes. Edie is keenly aware of society’s lofty attitude toward hired help and country people, yet she unconsciously exhibits the same prejudice toward shiftless Loretta Bird, an unwelcome neighbor.

The Peebles family lives across the road from the old fairgrounds where one day a small plane lands, sparking all sorts of conjecture. That afternoon the barnstorming pilot Chris Watters, who offers plane rides for a dollar, seeks permission to use the Peebles’s pump and instead finds Edie trying on Mrs. Peebles’s long dress and jewelry while the family is gone. Edie is immediately smitten.

When Alice, the pilot’s fiancé and a former army nurse, arrives unexpectedly, Dr. Peebles follows local custom by inviting her to stay with them. Tension escalates as Alice tries to convince Chris to marry her, but he is clearly reluctant and soon disappears. Viciously turning on Edie, Alice flounces after him. As Edie waits for Chris’s promised letter at the mailbox, she meets a young mail carrier who will soon become her husband. Unlike Alice, Edie decides, “If there were women all through life waiting, and women busy and not waiting, I knew which I had to be.”

How I Met My Husband Overview

Alice Munro published “How I Met My Husband” in her book Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974). Told from the first-person point of view, the story layers the voice of the fifteen-year-old Edie, working as a “hired girl” in the house of the comparatively wealthy Peebles family, with that of the adult Edie, now happily married and wiser than she was as a teenager. Edie’s voice is colloquial and friendly, keenly aware of its audience. In this way, the story celebrates the art of storytelling, suggesting that by using memories to tell stories people arrive at a greater understanding of who they are. Storytelling also enables women who live on the margins of society—such as Edie, who has little education, money, or status—to speak when they might otherwise be silenced. And Edie is quite a storyteller; even as a teenager, she has a quick wit and healthy sense of identity even though she also seeks greater fulfillment in life. She thinks it might come in the form of a pilot who lands his airplane in the fairgrounds across from her employers’ house, for whose letter she patiently waits. However, she finally understands that waiting will not give her happiness. She learns that there are women all over “waiting by mailboxes for one letter or another” and determines that she “was never made to go on like that.” By telling her own story and seizing opportunities to make life good for herself, Edie refuses to deceive herself that life is other than what it is, which is something joyful if lived with vitality and honesty.

How I Met My Husband Extended Summary

When an airplane flies overhead at noon, Edie and Dr. and Mrs. Peebles run outside, afraid it will crash near their house. But, no, the pilot was landing the plane in the fairgrounds across the street. Loretta Bird, the noisy and nosy neighbor, stops by to gossip about the event, for in this area, about five miles outside the city, not much happens, and a plane landing across the street is worth talking about. The next day, Mrs. Peebles takes her children into town to get haircuts, and while she is gone, Edie, after cleaning the kitchen so that it is sparkling clean, goes into Mrs. Peebles’s bedroom just to look around and snoops into her closet as well. She sees a beautiful satin gown hanging in the back that she cannot resist trying on. It fits beautifully, so Edie puts on a bit of makeup too. While she is in the kitchen getting a glass of ginger ale, a man appears at the door and introduces himself as Chris Watters, the pilot of the plane that landed the day before. He asks if he could use the pump for water. He at first mistakes her for the lady of the house, but he remains friendly after she tells him she is merely “the hired girl.” Regardless, he tells her she looks beautiful. Although alarmed that someone caught her in Mrs. Peebles’s dress, Edie is nevertheless flattered by his compliments.

Edie tells Dr. and Mrs. Peebles about Chris Watters later that day, but she realizes that if he were to visit and mention the satin dress, she would be embarrassed and perhaps in trouble with her employers. After the children are in bed, she runs over to ask Chris to please say nothing about the dress. He is quick to agree and puts her at ease; even more, he gives her a cigarette, lights it, and talks with her. Edie is again flattered because, after all, this is an older man and she is but fifteen. Remembering the children in bed, she runs back home.

Chris had landed his plane at the fairgrounds to start a business selling rides for a dollar. He is moderately...

(The entire section is 813 words.)