(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Fireman’s Wife” unfolds from the point of view of Jane, the firefighter’s wife. It is a September evening in an unnamed Illinois city. Jane and her husband, Martin, are at home, entertaining their friends Wally Harmon and Teddy Lynch, also firefighters, and Wally’s wife, Milly, who is expecting a baby soon. All are old friends and native to the area except Jane, who feels somewhat of an outsider.

After dinner, Martin proposes a game of Risk, which all but Jane have played for years. Jane resists, claiming a headache and concerned about the lateness of the hour. However, Martin insists. As preparations are made for the game, Milly mentions a dream she had the night before about her pregnancy. Milly’s dream prompts others to recount particularly vivid recent dreams of their own: Jane of fishing with her father, who had in fact died when she was a baby; Wally of drowning and, paradoxically, having to be the one to break the news to his wife; and Teddy of being shot and falling on concrete.

Jane and Milly are the first to lose and leave the game. They retire inside the house to converse. Milly talks about her pregnancy and about how uneasy her husband’s dream her and then probes Jane’s moodiness. Jane is defensive and claims she just has a headache. However, Milly suggests that perhaps Jane is unhappy in her marriage, feeling trapped and angry.

Jane does not commit herself one way or the other. However, there are indications that Milly is correct. The game finally ends, and the others go home, leaving Martin and Jane to prepare for bed. Martin wants to make love, but Jane again claims a headache and goes to sleep.

The next morning, Martin is sheepish and Jane is distant as she helps him get off to work, more it seems to speed his departure than to show support or love. She works at a...

(The entire section is 758 words.)