This “critique of daily life” records the disintegration of the marriage of a young urban couple. The narrator, given to excessive drinking, retrospectively sketches a series of domestic clashes that highlight the nature of the conflicts between him and his wife, Wanda, and their unnamed child.
The narrator and his wife quarrel, sometimes violently and finally almost lethally, about various domestic matters, among them their child’s behavior, a game of chess, the narrator’s stinginess, and his abandonment of her. The father’s relationship with the child is marked by his irritation with the child’s requests, by his exasperation with the child’s behavior, and by his fury at the child’s inferences about his character.
In the final section, a separation has taken place, and the wife is visiting the narrator’s bachelor quarters. A round of friendly toasts to each other quickly degenerates into mutual recriminations, and Wanda pulls a large pistol from her bosom and fires at her husband. She misses and instead shatters the bottle of liquor on the mantel. The concluding scene shows the wife in Nanterre, France, studying Marxist sociology while the husband is at home, content with his favorite brand of scotch: “And I, I have my J&B. The J&B company keeps manufacturing it, case after case, year in and year out, and there is, I am told, no immediate danger of a dearth.”