Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On the surface, “Pretty Ice” appears to be a story about a woman’s cooling relationship with her fiancé, but it is more than that. By the end of the story, Belle appears to have come to a decision to end her engagement, not only because Will has lost his source of income but also because she no longer finds him attractive. She says nothing good about him in the course of her narration, and she takes the side of those who have declared his seven years of research to be superficial. She does not kiss him, although her mother does. She does not invite him to stay with her and does not want him to stay with her mother. She does not even want to have breakfast with him.

Most readers will recognize that the calculations Belle has been making all night long before Will’s arrival have more to do with the relationship than with her tax returns. It is ominous for Will that Belle finds herself taking pleasure in the sums she is getting.

This is only one of the relationships with which Belle is having problems. She seems to be unusually dependent on her mother for someone of her age; it is not until her mother starts honking that she allows herself to be driven to meet her fiancé. She disparages her mother throughout the story, even resenting the little car her mother bought after her father’s suicide. She expresses a resentful sense of inadequacy in comparison to her mother’s great popularity with men, noting that her mother probably dated...

(The entire section is 413 words.)