Chapters 1-4: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1475

New Characters:
Marian McAlpin: main character, narrator

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Ainsley Tewce: Marian’s roommate

Peter: Marian’s boyfriend, he is in his articling year as a lawyer

Clara: Marian’s friend from high school and college

Joe: Clara’s husband

Arthur and Elaine: Clara and Joe’s children

Len Slank: college friend of Marian and Clara

Trigger: friend of Peter

Marian and Ainsley’s landlady: unnamed

Landlady’s daughter: unnamed

Marian’s office colleagues:
Mrs. Withers: dietician

Mrs. Grot: accounting clerk

Mrs. Bogue: head of Marian’s department

Emmy, Lucy, Millie: collectively, the three office virgins

It is morning and Marian and her roommate, Ainsley, are preparing for the last work day before Labour Day weekend. Marian works for Seymour Surveys, a market research company, where she revises questionnaires. It is a good job, better than most she thinks, yet she can’t help envying Ainsley her job as tester of defective electric toothbrushes. Marian thinks of her job as the kind of position one is expected to have after earning a B.A.; Ainsley’s is unusual and more temporary. Hung over from a party she attended the night before, Ainsley tells Marian that her evening was so dull that she had to console herself by getting drunk. Marian suddenly realizes that she is running late, quickly eats a bowl of cereal and heads for the bus stop. On her way out, she is stopped by the landlady who questions her about the smoke that was emanating from the girls’ apartment the night before. Marian explains that it was just the pork chops but is still given words of warning to pass along to Ainsley.

Marian is 45 minutes late when she arrives at work and is almost immediately recruited by Mrs. Withers, the dietician, to taste-test new flavours of canned rice pudding. When she gets back to her desk, she contemplates her position with the company. She has the impression that she is being groomed for something higher up, but does not know what. Marian’s office, all female, is the link between the men upstairs and the machines below and does not provide her with any visibly attainable goals. Her uneasiness is amplified when she receives a visit from Mrs. Grot of Accounting, who tells her that she is now eligible for the mandatory pension plan. Marian reluctantly signs the necessary forms, but feels as though she has put her name to a magic document that binds her to an unavoidable, distant future. She welcomes the ten-thirty coffee break and joins Emmy, Lucy, and Millie (collectively dubbed the three “office virgins” by Ainsley) at the restaurant across the street. Ainsley, whose office is nearby, joins them. Marian complains to her friends about the obligatory pension plan, but is merely told that she will soon get over it.

After lunch, an unexpected problem arises concerning an upcoming beer study and Marian is asked if she would be available to conduct pretest interviews over the weekend. Feeling that her lateness that morning gives her supervisor leverage, she agrees to do the interviews. Soon afterwards, she receives a call from Peter, her boyfriend. He is upset because his last unmarried friend, Trigger, is getting married. As a result, the plans Marian and Peter had for dinner that evening are cancelled. Marian is disappointed but then gets a call from her married friend, Clara, who invites her to dinner. Marian immediately accepts but then, fearing that she will be expected to act as entertainer and confidante, asks if she can bring Ainsley.

Upon their arrival, Marian and Ainsley are greeted by Joe, Clara’s husband. It isn’t long before everyone’s attention is focused on Elaine, one of Clara and Joe’s two children. Marian feels that her role for the evening is that of blotter: she must absorb some of Clara’s boredom. She must also be careful not...

(The entire section contains 1475 words.)

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Chapters 5-8: Summary and Analysis

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