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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed narrator has had a long acquaintance with a family of women. Mrs. Rimmle, the elderly widowed matriarch of the family, controls the lives of her three soon-to-be-old daughters by preventing their much-anticipated trip to Europe—a trip that she and her husband enjoyed in the distant past. The narrator, who is familiar with European culture, encourages the daughters, Becky, Jane, and Maria Rimmle, to make the journey, but soon perceives that their mother is subtly intent on preventing it, using her poor health as an excuse. It is commonly believed that Becky is the daughter most “prepared” and thus most deserving of a journey to Europe, although the narrator intuits that it is Jane who most passionately desires to visit the continent.

As the years go by and Mrs. Rimmle’s repeated health crises prevent the European journey, the narrator observes that her daughters’ rapid aging is exceeded only by her own aging. However, Mrs. Rimmle always rallies, and she moves toward an advanced age that is treated somewhat comically by the narrator and his sister-in-law, who is his interlocutor in the story. The subject of Europe becomes one that is both embarrassing and amusing for the narrator and the Rimmle daughters, who seem to hold out hope for such a trip, but also seem to understand that their own time is running out as their mother moves into her dotage. Finally, however, the narrator is informed by his sister-in-law that Jane Rimmle has departed suddenly for Europe with a family called the Hathaways, and that the trip has brought about important changes in her personality and demeanor.

The narrator claims not to be surprised, however, when he is told that Jane has become a person whom “no one would know,” one who...

(The entire section is 450 words.)