The Copper Peacock and Other Stories Summary

Ruth Rendell

The Copper Peacock and Other Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although each of the nine tales in Ruth Rendell’s collection THE COPPER PEACOCK AND OTHER STORIES is unique, they share characteristics which are also found in her novels. Typically, Rendell narratives focus on people who seek revenge for some betrayal or who simply feel entitled to have anything they want. In novels such as THE HOUSE OF STAIRS and GOING WRONG, characters see nothing wrong with striking out at those who have offended them or who merely stand in their way. Similarly, in these stories, a quiet librarian revenges herself upon a man who has wronged her ("A Pair of Yellow Lilies") and a museum attendant adds a bullying boss to the fish tank ("The Fish-Sitter"). There are also characters like the vicious husband in “Mother’s Help,” who sees nothing wrong with eliminating obstacles to his pleasure.

Although readers of Rendell like to explore the criminal mind, they also delight in seeing such instances of poetic justice as the final terror of the accomplice to murder in “Mother’s Help” and the misery of the sickly philanderer in “Dying Happy,” who has lived to see his wife and his mistress become friends. Like her novels, these stories illustrate Rendell’s command of plotting, as well as her profound understanding of the obsessive mind.