The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Peter and Sheilah Frazier console themselves on Sunday mornings by remembering the people they met during the decade they spent trying to live a charmed life abroad. Now they are “back where they started,” in Toronto, living with Lucille, Peter’s down-to-earth sister. They do not have plans for the future, and they have become soured by “the international thing”; unlike other expatriates, Peter was neither “crooked” nor “smart” enough to find shady business opportunities in postwar Europe. Now as in the past, they try to believe that “hazy and marvellous” experiences lie ahead of them. In order to believe in this wonderful future, they must avoid the dreary present, so they spend their Sunday morning recalling the years that they spent in Europe, carrying the reader back with them to the Paris and Geneva of their past.

In their decade of genteel drifting, only four months in Paris are charmed. Peter does not need to work, for his comfortably endowed childhood has been extended by an inheritance, and Sheilah loves him. They live “in the future” until the money runs out, and then they are “never as happy again.” When Lucille finds Peter a lowly job as a filing clerk in Geneva, Peter keeps his self-esteem by convincing himself that a position befitting his social status and family connections will come his way. He rationalizes his situation by deciding that there is a conspiracy among Canadian diplomats and businesspeople to punish him, and he becomes secretive about his job. He tries to cultivate connections so that he and Sheilah...

(The entire section is 642 words.)