Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In many of Ellen Gilchrist’s stories, the central character is a self-centered girl or woman. However, in “The Stucco House,” the protagonist is a young boy, but his self-indulgent mother is the same Rhoda who appears in many of Gilchrist’s short stories. She is introduced as a young girl in Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981). She appears in both Victory over Japan (1984), the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, and Age of Miracles (1995), which contains seven stories about Rhoda, including “The Stucco House.” The Rhoda stories have been assembled in Rhoda: A Life in Stories (1995), and Gilchrist chose “The Stucco House” as one of the thirty-four stories to be included in her Collected Stories (2000). Taken together, the Rhoda stories chart the development of Rhoda Manning from childhood through adolescence, marriage and divorce, affairs, and her career as a writer. Even though Rhoda, as an adult, is financially well off and talented, she is dissatisfied. She, as well as some of Gilchrist’s other female protagonists, is searching for an identity, a search often curtailed by the demands of a family. Although some characters find satisfaction and a balance between career and family, many do not.

In “The Stucco House,” Rhoda, portrayed as a writer with a drinking problem, considers herself to be a failure not only as an artist and poet but also as a wife and mother. She realizes that...

(The entire section is 578 words.)