Walter Briggs Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Driving home from Boston (a fifty-minute trip), Jack and his wife, Clare, entertain their daughter Jo with a version of a familiar nursery rhyme while their infant son sleeps. After Jo also falls asleep, they talk about the people they have met at a party, which leads into an extended memory game in which they try to remember names and details about people they had known when, newly married, they had worked together at a YMCA family camp in New Hampshire for a summer five years before. Their conversation, mostly commonplace and trivial, reveals hidden conflicts. One name out of their past that eludes both of them is the surname of a man called Walter who stayed all summer and played bridge every night.

Lying in bed after arriving home, Jack starts recalling poignant details of their early married life at the summer camp, particularly of their cabin and of his habit of reading Miguel de Cervantes’s El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, 1615; The History of the Valorous and Wittie Knight-Errant, Don Quixote of the Mancha, 1612-1620; better known as Don Quixote de la Mancha) every evening before dinner. Thinking of his tears at the conclusion of the novel, Jack suddenly recollects the name that had escaped them; he turns to his sleeping wife and says, “Briggs. Walter Briggs.”