(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Unperformed Experiments Have No Results” is made up of several seemingly unrelated events, the sequence of which the narrator no longer knows. The events include Philippa’s sitting on her dock observing a man rowing a canoe upstream, her memory of climbing a waterfall in Queensland with her friend Brian during their last year in high school, a dream in which she sees the body of Brian on a submerged suspension bridge at the end of her dock, and her discovery that Brian is ill and has disappeared. A fifth “event” is Philippa’s reading historical accounts of French Jesuits who came to Ontario in the seventeenth century.

Much of the story is taken up by Philippa’s experience on a summer afternoon when, while sitting on her dock, she sees a man paddling upriver in a birch-bark canoe against a strong current. She describes in great detail the man, “all manic energy and obstinacy,” fighting the stream with almost supernatural strength. Thinking she recognizes something about the man’s physical gestures, she is astonished when he looks up and she thinks it is her friend Brian. Although she knows it cannot be Brian, who is in either Japan or Australia, she is mesmerized by the man until he paddles out of sight. Later at a dinner party with her husband, she hears about a birch-bark canoe having washed up on shore. When someone says the authorities are searching for the body of the man, Philippa says she hopes they do not find him.


(The entire section is 546 words.)