Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Morley Callaghan’s short stories frequently question conventional morality, and “The Faithful Wife” is an example of this type of interrogation. This purposefully open-ended sketch suggests an examination of calculated pretense, or the idea of consciously hiding one’s true nature for the purpose of breaking with traditional codes of moral behavior.

Though the story begins simply, it becomes complicated as young George is invited to the apartment of a young woman about whom he has been dreaming. Although there are reasons to suspect that George is not a total innocent, he is unaccountably nervous at the prospect. For one thing, it is clear that George has a respectful admiration for this woman to whom he has never even spoken. His impression is based on the disposition that she wears at his lunch counter each day. Seeing her as pretty, shy, and aloof, he assumes that she is unapproachable. He empathizes with her somewhat shabby appearance and feels sorry for her. It is not surprising, therefore, that George should be nervous when she boldly invites him to meet her at her apartment. Her behavior seems to conflict with the image that he has built of her. The resulting tension manifests itself in George’s awkwardness in her room. However, the idea that Lola is not who she has seemed to be is taken to a further level as she reveals to George that she is married.

Callaghan, seeming at first intent on exploring the morality of a casual...

(The entire section is 479 words.)