In addition to her courage and self-control, Mrs. Wynnes demonstrates that she knows a great deal about cobras. Using details from the short story "The Dinner Party" by Mona Gardner, show that she...

In addition to her courage and self-control, Mrs. Wynnes demonstrates that she knows a great deal about cobras. Using details from the short story "The Dinner Party" by Mona Gardner, show that she is familiar with the habits of cobras.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Dinner Party," by Mona Gardner, is a short story in which, as you suggest in your question, Mrs. Wynnes demonstrates both courage and self-control. She also demonstrates her knowledge of cobras by several of her actions.

Mrs. Wynnes and her husband are Indian colonials, and tonight they are hosting a dinner party for some government officials and others. The group is gathered in a spacious dining room with "a bare marble floor, open rafters and wide glass doors opening onto a veranda."

They are all seated around a table and, ironically, the discussion turns to a debate over whether women will respond as coolly as men when they are in a crisis. Of course we learn that, during this discussion, a cobra has slithered its way under the table and over Mrs. Wynnes's foot.

We have several clues that the hostess is "familiar with the habits of cobras." When she realizes there is a cobra under the table, she does not reveal it except by a tightening of her muscles; she knows that any sudden movement could cause the snake to strike. 

She quietly instructs one of the servants to place a saucer of milk out on the veranda.

In India, milk in a bowl means only one thing—bait for a snake.

Clearly Mrs. Wynnes knows this fact and orders it to be done. 

Finally, the stoic hostess plays along with her American guest's rather outrageous "game," which of course is his way of keeping everyone still. She does not protest or laugh; she plays along as the snake crawls over her foot and out the doors. 

Without question, Mrs. Wynnes knows exactly what to do when a cobra arrives as an unannounced guest at her dinner party--and she wins the debate for the women.

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