What is a summary of "A Canary for One"?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story 'A Canary For One' three Americans are described travelling together to Paris on the night train. One passenger is a lady in middle age and the other two are a couple - much younger. The single lady chats most, anxious that speeding trains will crash. She also appears to have anxieties over marriage - in particular that of her own daughter - she feels that an American husband would be best!  However, unfortunately for her, her daughter fell for a highly eligible Swiss man whilst on holiday in Switzerland and the couple had suggested marriage. The lady made her leave for home back in America - a harrowing experience for her devastated daughter. To try to make up for it, the mother bought a canary for the poor girl. The young couple listen to the story but only the wife makes any comment, not seeming to want to divulge any true feelings on the suitability or otherwise of American husbands. She does ask, however, how the young sweetheart is coping with her loss and tells the older lady that she and her own partner have been to Switzerland and had only left Paris because of the war - they are returning there now after the conflict.

Although he doesn't seem to participate in the female conversation, the young man seems to be the voice telling the story. He seems detached, disinterested and cold which ceases to be surprising as the story concludes - they are heading to Paris for a divorce! He seems to wonder if anything will ever be the same again as the war has changed everything. The tale is poignant as it is the capital of romance and love to which they travel for the ending of their married relationship. There may be a theme of control too as the older lady has controlled and manipulated the destiny of her daughter, and that of the other young person. Loss of control however, may be felt by the young male passenger as the war seemed to take over the lives of many people and may have had a bearing on the success of his marriage.

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A Canary for One

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