Is Ms. Stoner his lawfully wedded wife?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Valiant Woman, Mrs. Stoner is Father Firman's housekeeper. She is not his lawfully wedded wife, but is so aggressive in her micro-management of the priest's life that many in the community consider Mrs. Stoner his de facto wife. Interestingly, Mrs Stoner, by her very action of moving from the housekeeper's room to the guest room, also considers herself the same. In the story, there is never an indication that Mrs. Stoner and Father Firman's relationship is a sexual one; the relationship is very much a platonic one, but one the priest has come to dislike.

Mrs. Stoner is a gossip and a meddler; she regularly imposes herself upon other people's good graces and thinks nothing of insinuating herself into any conversation. She does this continually when Father Firman invites Father Nulty to dinner for his fifty-ninth birthday. Both priests are relieved to eventually be able to have a moment to themselves in the study after dinner.

When Father Nulty lets on that another priest has gotten rid of his own meddling housekeeper and hired a Filipino one, Father Firman is all ears. He begins to dream about the possibilities of getting rid of Mrs. Stoner. However, he realizes that he can't quite bring himself to turn the woman out. Even though she 'hid his books, kept him from smoking, picked his friends...had no humor,' Father Firman admits that she is always clean and has a thrifty nature.

With good housekeepers difficult to find and pensions an expensive alternative, Father Firman is forced to concede defeat in his plan to get rid of his meddling housekeeper. The story ends with the priest causing the statue of St. Joseph to fall and break after unsuccessfully attempting to kill a mosquito perched on the statue. His frustration is evident in his exclamation, 'And only the female bites.'  Mrs. Stoner is likened to a pesky mosquito, an insect, where only the female of the species bites.

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