(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“You’re Ugly Too” is told in the third person through the perspective of Zoë Hendricks, a single woman in academia seemingly doomed to a series of unrewarding relationships with the opposite sex. Her situation is a common one for professional women, and the story would be simply depressing if not for Zoë’s wry sense of humor. When she visits her sister in New York City, she meets another single man, who turns out to be the epitome of men incapable of true intimacy.

Zoë lives in an Illinois town, incongruously named Paris, where she teaches history at a small liberal arts college with the equally incongruous name, Hilldale-Versailles. She has been hired primarily as a means of avoiding a sex-discrimination suit, and her male colleagues do not treat her seriously. Zoë’s sense of ironic humor quickly degenerates into sarcasm, and her student evaluations are slipping. She finds her students good-natured enough, but inane, lacking even minimal intellectual curiosity about anything historical or geographic.

Zoë manages to plug along in her job, saving herself by frequent trips or vacations away from the Midwest, where every man expects her to be a physically mature version of Heidi, the charming Swiss orphan in the Johanna Spyri classic novel. She is writing a book on humor in the American presidency, but her progress is slowed by her meticulous, compulsive revisions. Zoë desperately awaits the arrival of the mail each day and watches television in her bedroom into the late hours of the night. She even buys a house but quickly loses any interest in personalizing it with her own decor. In fact, she is not quite sure that the woman she sees in the mirror each day is herself.


(The entire section is 703 words.)