A woman’s sense of her inferior position in her marriage, and her resulting disappointment, is an important theme of the story “Astronomer’s Wife.” Mr. Ames is cold and unemotional. Immersed in his thoughts, he seems to be least interested in his wife, Mrs. Katherine Ames. He spends hours either lying still in bed or examining the sky with his telescope from the rooftop. “The impenetrable silence of his brow” causes her to believe that he is some kind of an exalted person, occupied with grand thoughts and ideas, while she belongs to some lowly and ignoble group whose existence has no worth or value. Her feeling is very well expressed in the following sentence from the story:
That man might be each time the new arching wave, and woman the undertow that sucked him back, were things she had been told by his silence were so.
Mr. Ames remains physically absent in the story. His only appearance in the story is when he yells at Mrs. Ames quite derisively, ‘‘There’s a problem worthy of your mettle!” This rebuke implies that he is contemptuous of his wife and has an inflated sense of self. The idea of man’s sense of his own superiority to woman is another important theme of the story.
The story however ends on a positive note. Mrs. Ames has come across a man who is completely opposite in nature to her husband. Unlike Mr. Ames, the plumber is attentive to her. He is sensitive and treats her gently and respectfully. She finds in him a person who belongs to the earth, not to the unreachable sky. He can fix what is broken and has specific and definite answers to questions. She feels attracted to him, as he stands for everything physical, unlike her husband, who is “a dreamer,” always engrossed in thoughts.
Mrs. Ames is finally able to escape from her state of subjugation when she decides to go down into the sewer with the plumber. Finally, she finds hope and love in her life. So, we see that hope is another important theme of the story.