The Night the Bed Fell

by James Thurber

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Why is the placement of the rooms important to the story?

Expert Answers

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The story's narrator carefully outlines the placement of the rooms, stating:

The layout of the rooms and the disposition of their occupants is important to an understanding of what later occurred. In the front room upstairs (just under father’s attic bedroom) were my mother and my brother Herman, who sometimes sang in his sleep, usually “Marching Through Georgia” or “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Briggs Beall and myself were in a room adjoining this one. My brother Roy was in a room across the hall from ours. Our bull terrier, Rex, slept in the hall.

The placement of the rooms is important because what happens creates a domino effect as sounds pass through walls or floors from room to room. One person wakes up another who wakes up another until the whole house is in zany madness.

Life is disrupted when the narrator's father decides to sleep in the attic bedroom so that he can think. When the narrator's iron cot collapses, as it often does, the mother, sleeping in the bedroom next door, is sure the wooden headboard of the attic bed has fallen on the father. She screams, which wakes up the narrator's brother Herman, who also begins to shout. This wakes up Briggs, who throws camphor on himself and breaks a window, and on it goes, one event leading to another in a chain reaction based on the way the bedrooms are placed.

As the narrator says at the end:

The situation was finally put together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle.

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