Describe Patrick's characteristics. What textual evidence does the author use to describe him in order to achieve this effect?

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The narrator of this great, dark little story does not give readers much direct characterization of Patrick. We are told things that he does, but we aren't necessarily told much about him specifically. We are directly told many more details about Mary. We are even told what kind of shine...

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The narrator of this great, dark little story does not give readers much direct characterization of Patrick. We are told things that he does, but we aren't necessarily told much about him specifically. We are directly told many more details about Mary. We are even told what kind of shine her skin has. Readers have to infer just about everything concerning Patrick, and we have to do it through the "rose tinted" glasses through which Mary views her husband. One characteristic I can think of is that he is fairly regular or habitual. The text seems to indicate that he comes home like clockwork every day and has an alcoholic drink while sitting in his chair. If he wasn't consistent like this, then Mary wouldn't be ready and waiting with everything. Sitting silently in the same room with him is her favorite part of the day, and that seems to indicate that this is a fairly regular occurrence.

She took his coat and hung it in the closer. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he in the other, opposite, holding the tall glass with both hands, rocking it so the ice cubes tinkled against the side.

For her, this was always a blissful time of day.

I've heard some readers accuse Patrick of being an alcoholic, because he has a drink every day or that he needs a second one to talk to Mary about something serious; however, I don't buy that characterization of Patrick. We are told that his quick downing of the first drink and pouring of a second is out of character for him. This would further indicate that Patrick is a predictable and regimented individual. What I also do see about his personality is that he is direct and doesn't shy away from confrontation. He does have to have a little bit of extra liquid courage, but he still has the conversation with his wife. He has found himself in a situation that he isn't happy with, and he's willing to do something about it. I think he's in the wrong for blindsiding Mary like he does, but it shows a sort of bravery in him.

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In the opening paragraphs of the story, the narrator describes Mary's perception of her husband. She adores him. She watches the clock with pleased anticipation because each moment that passes is one moment closer to when Patrick will come home from work. When he gets home, she waits on him, taking his coat and getting him a drink. This is their ritual. She loves everything about being in his presence: 

She knew he didn't want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she was satisfied to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved the warmth that came out of him when they were alone together. She loved the shape of his mouth, and she especially liked the way he didn't complain about being tired.

Given the way the narrator describes Mary's admiration for her husband, the reader would assume that he is a good husband, one deserving of Mary's praise. However, he behaves coldly toward her in preparation for giving her the news that he is leaving. He says this pretty flippantly. If this is any indication of how he'd always treated her, he never deserved such praise. He promises to give her money (she is pregnant) and selfishly says he hopes the break-up won't be a problem because it wouldn't be good for his job. 

First, the author describes Mary's extreme admiration for Patrick. This helps the reader understand Mary's shock when he gives her the news that he is leaving. The reader has the impression of a good husband and is then presented with a selfish adulterer. The reader then can understand Mary's shock. The subsequent shock (to the reader) is how Mary reacts.

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