The Real Thing Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An artist is visited one day in his studio by a middle-aged couple, Major and Mrs. Monarch. At first the artist assumes that they have come to commission a portrait, but he soon learns that they want, instead, to pose as paid models. He observes that the Monarchs, though on the edge of poverty, are an eminently respectable pair, well-mannered, immaculately poised—in effect, as their name suggests, the very embodiment of taste, refinement, and class.

Hoping that they might prove ideal subjects for a series of illustrations he is engaged in creating for a publisher, the artist agrees to hire them, though their very authenticity causes him to have vague misgivings. They are the “real thing,” but they are still amateurs, and the artist is more confident of his ability to work with his professional models, Oronte and Miss Churm.

Miss Churm is an ill-mannered cockney who “couldn’t spell and loved beer” but who can represent anything from an aristocrat to a beggar. The artist regards her as an excellent model. As for Oronte, he is an Italian vagrant who found his way to the artist’s studio and who has become as good a model, in the artist’s eyes, as Miss Churm. He is, the narrator relates, as good at posing as an Englishman as Miss Churm is as an Italian.

Against these two, the Monarchs must compete for the artist’s favor, though at first they assume that their own credentials as aristocrats will be warrant enough for...

(The entire section is 489 words.)