Chapters 5-8: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2874

New Characters:
Duncan: an English Literature graduate student

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Trevor and Fish: Duncan’s roommates, also graduate students

As Marian and Ainsley walk through the dusk towards the subway, Ainsley wonders how Clara can stand such an existence. She feels that Clara allows herself to be treated like a thing while Joe does all the work. At the very least, Ainsley suggests, Clara could return to school and finish her degree. These criticisms of her friend’s current lifestyle lead Marian to recall how, after Clara’s first child was born, she had considered her absence from school as temporary. Lately, however, she had started to think of herself, bitterly, as “just a housewife.”

When they get home, Marian calls Len Slank and the two make plans to meet the following evening for drinks. During their conversation, Len asks Marian about the new man she is seeing and whether or not it is serious. Marian assures Len that her relationship with Peter is not at all serious. As soon as she is off the phone Ainsley again inquires about Len. She then tells Marian that she has something important to tell her: she wants to have a baby. Marian initially interprets this as meaning that Ainsley is getting married. This surprises Marian because Ainsley has always been decidedly anti-marriage. Ainsley assures Marian that she has absolutely no intention of getting married. In fact, she believes that families like Clara and Joe’s do not provide an ideal situation for a child: the child’s mother-image and father-image will be confused. The thing that ruins families, Ainsley argues, is the husband. It is a child Ainsley wants, not a man.

Marian is baffled but does not know how to justify her opposition to Ainsley’s plan. When she asks Ainsley why it is she has suddenly decided that she wants to have a baby, her roommate tells her that every woman should have one because it “fulfils your deepest femininity.” “Don’t you feel you need a sense of purpose?” she asks Marian. In response, Marian considers all the time and energy that will be required to pack and move all of the furniture. She always knew that their living arrangement was not permanent but, now that it was threatened, it began to take on a “desirable stability.”

According to Marian, Ainsley has decided to have an illegitimate child and bring it up by herself. Society being the way it is, Marian thinks the child will suffer. Ainsley challenges this view and asks how society will ever change if certain individuals in it do not make an effort to better it. After a few moments of silence, Marian finally asks about the father. Ainsley admits that she has not yet chosen a father but says that he will have to be someone fairly good-looking with decent heredity. He will also have to be cooperative and not make a fuss about marrying her. Marian goes to her room thinking about ways to stop her friend. She then becomes resigned, wondering whether Ainsley’s personal life is any of her business. She decides that she will “simply have to adjust to the situation.”

The next morning, Saturday, Marian gets up and prepares for a day of interviewing. She breakfasts alone and traces several possible routes on a city map. After breakfast, Marian travels to the chosen neighbourhood and rings the day’s first doorbell. She explains to the woman who answers that she is conducting a market research survey about beer and asks to speak to her husband. The woman invites Marian inside where she is greeted by a tall man in a black coat who tells her that “the propagation of drink and drunkenness to excess is. . . a sin against the Lord.” Marian tries to explain that her company is not actually involved with selling beer but is told that it does not make a difference. It’s the same thing, he tells her:...

(The entire section contains 2874 words.)

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