Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Though “The Japanese Quince” has far-reaching ramifications about the main characters’ lives (as does its central symbol), the story’s events transpire in less than an hour in the compressed length of less than three pages. Upstairs in the midst of his early morning pre-breakfast routine, Mr. Nilson becomes aware of a disturbing sensation that he cannot identify. Downstairs, when the sensation recurs, he decides to take a stroll in the garden square surrounded by the exclusive row houses of his neighborhood.
Once outside, Mr. Nilson is charmed by an ornamental tree and a blackbird singing in it. Suddenly, he becomes aware that his next-door neighbor is nearby, also admiring the tree, and the two, who have not been formally introduced, exchange a few laudatory remarks about the Japanese quince and the blackbird. Then, both becoming embarrassed, the pair bid each other good morning and return to their houses. About to reenter his house, Nilson again gazes at the tree and the blackbird, experiences the disturbing sensation, notices his neighbor (also about to reenter his house) gazing at the tree and bird, and then, “unaccountably upset,” turns “abruptly” into the house and opens his morning newspaper.
(The entire section is 196 words.)
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The action of "The Japanese Quince" appears at first glance quite simple and straightforward, perhaps deceptively so On a beautiful spring morning, Mr. Nilson opens his dressing room window, only to experience "a peculiar sweetish sensation in the back of his throat.'' Descending to his dining room and finding his morning paper laid out, Mr. Nilson again experiences that peculiar sensation as he takes the paper in his hand. Hoping to rid himself of this uncomfortable feeling, Mr. Nilson determines to take a walk in the nearby gardens before breakfast.
With paper firmly in hand behind him, Mr. Nilson notes with some alarm that even after two laps around the park, the unsettling sensation has not ceased. Breathing deeply only exacerbates the problem. Mr. Nilson is unable to account for the way he feels, until it occurs to him it might possibly be "some smell affecting him." a scent evidently emanating from the budding bushes of spring. When a blackbird begins singing, Mr, Nilson's attention is drawn to a nearby tree.
Mr. Nilson pauses to enjoy the flowering tree. He congratulates himself on having taken the time to enjoy the beautiful morning. He then wonders why he is the only person who has bothered to come out and enjoy the square. Just then he notices that he is, in fact, not alone. Another man is standing quite near to him, likewise "staring up and smiling at the little tree." At the sight of the man, Mr. Nilson ceases to smile and regards...
(The entire section is 507 words.)