(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Aunt Carrie” is told in two parts, first from the perspective of the narrator as a child and later as the childhood experience is re-evaluated by the narrator as an adult.

The setting for the first portion of the story is a train station. The nine-year-old narrator is excited by her first visit to a train station. She is awed by the dark and noisy trains and by her imaginings of Pittsburgh, the point of departure for her father, whom she, her mother, and her Aunt Carrie have come to meet. Ernest Price has been away attending a convention and is about to return. Before her father’s train arrives, the girl is confused by the odd behavior of her mother, who is acting tense and speaking in a weird tone of voice; somewhat inexplicably, she has brought Aunt Carrie along to the station.

The young narrator has difficulty believing that her aunt is just a few years older than her mother although she realizes that Aunt Carrie is not considered physically attractive, and that she seems old and worn. She senses that the older woman wears lipstick to make herself pretty but that her effort is ineffective. Part of her impressions are formed by offhand negative comments about Aunt Carrie that her mother has made, so her own views of her aunt are not sympathetic.

When her father arrives, the girl runs into his arms. While he holds her, something happens among the adults that she does not understand. Aunt Carrie seems upset; pulling distractedly on a hankie, she is covered by her coat and retreats behind the large pregnant physique of Mrs. Price, where the girl can barely see her. Belle Price confronts her husband, but her words are meaningless to the child. She refers to Aunt Carrie as his “lovely sister” and informs Mr. Price that she once read a letter that Aunt Carrie wrote to him years ago. All three adults are immobilized by this announcement, and the child fears that her parents are about to have an argument. Her father looks like he is about to cry, and Aunt Carrie is actually crying. She decides...

(The entire section is 832 words.)