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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 327

In this short story, Maria Quiteria, a wife and mother, apparently goes through an intense period of questioning her position and purpose in life. Her children are away from home visiting a relative, and, when she decides to sleep through her husband's arrival home from work and his departure for...

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In this short story, Maria Quiteria, a wife and mother, apparently goes through an intense period of questioning her position and purpose in life. Her children are away from home visiting a relative, and, when she decides to sleep through her husband's arrival home from work and his departure for work the next day, she realizes that he does not actually need her. She does not get up to prepare his dinner or his breakfast or to make sure that his suit his presentable, and she rebuffs his kisses. He declares that she must be ill, an idea that pleases her, so she remains in bed daydreaming for the remainder of the day and night. The next day, when the children are due home, Maria chides herself for being such a "trollop" and goes to run her errands.

On Saturday night, Maria goes out to dinner with her husband and an "ever-so-prosperous businessman." She does actually get drunk, making small talk but feeling as though some inner self exists that cannot be reached or expressed by her laughter, her skin, the image she conveys. She begins to consider that she's always possessed an artistic sensibility and seems to cling to that idea, but then she realizes that she is protected by her "position in life. Like someone prevented from a downfall of her own." Maria realizes that she can get as drunk as she wants, that it doesn't matter, because her position, her husband's position, protects her from real embarrassment or judgment. She judges another young woman in the restaurant for her smugness and for her hat, as well as the waiter. She seems to be full of a "sacred wrath," and she feels an intense "sadness" as a result of the fact that she doesn't really seem to know who she is or what she's for. Maria returns to her bedroom thinking, "Oh what sadness. What can you possibly do," and she "blink[s] in resignation."

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652

Maria Quitera is a housewife on the edge. She is looking for her place in the world; not finding it, she is searching for someone to blame. The story begins on a Thursday afternoon just before her husband returns from work. Maria is in a tipsy mood, acting childish and as if she is drunk. She is talking and singing to herself, brushing her hair, admiring herself in the mirror, flitting from one mood and subject to another. Her children are away, and her husband is soon to be out of town on business. She prepares herself by sleeping.

The story falls loosely into two sections: the first being Maria’s “day off,” and the second, the Saturday night dinner. On her day off, when her children are away and her husband is to spend the day in the city on business, Maria fleetingly feels the freedom and consequent fear of not having a particular role to play for the day. When her husband comes in to kiss her farewell, she realizes that she does not even know what he has had for breakfast—the preparation of which is doubtless one of her daily rituals. She realizes that she need not get his meals nor check his suit for lint. However, if not these things, what then should she do? Her answer is to snap at her husband and spend the next thirty-six hours or so in a dizzying, whirling sleep, effectively avoiding the self-defining task of asserting her will on the day. When Maria finally does get up late on Saturday morning, she is clearly happy to find the everyday routine restored as she goes about her chores and errands.

The Saturday night at the fancy restaurant, where Maria accompanies her husband to dine with a wealthy businessperson, plays out this same scenario but more elaborately. Now drinking wine, Maria actually is tipsy, playing with her altered perceptions and self-awareness. On the outside she is socializing in the role of the loyal, if slightly shallow, wife. She feels alienated from that role, however, and is instead becoming hypersensitive to her own sense of self, as if that self were a secret. “But the words that a woman uttered when drunk were like being pregnant—mere words on her lips which had nothing to do with the secret core that seemed like pregnancy.” She plays a bit with this duality, relishing it, as she remembers that she is a woman of culture, a woman who has traveled, who has an artistic sensibility. Wanting to pursue this identity, she becomes more and more drunk, reasoning that she has after all acquired a certain position in life, which affords her protection from the social world. It is this very realization that brings her back into “reality.” Her position is nothing if not the adjunct to her successful husband, whom she was just silently mocking. In an instant the “position” that saved her from misfortune has become a cloud that shadows her self into obscurity.

Maria’s response to this sense of annihilation is again vehemently to defend her role as model wife and mother, as she jealously and hatefully criticizes another woman who has caught her eye at the restaurant. Though not wanting to do so, she still plays by the rules of the superficial, fluctuating from self-righteous disdain and indignation to humility and shame at going out to dinner without a hat like that which the slim socialite is wearing.

While recovering at home from her indulgent night, her hidden self makes one last stab at emerging and taking hold. The physical sensations of such a state of heightened awareness, however, become unbearable for Maria. Accordingly, she recites a series of Christian and domestic platitudes, as she resigns herself to a defeated state in subjugation to her “real world” position—cleaning house and being pretty and plump—at the side of her husband.

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