Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 273
“As for Me and My House” is a story by Sinclair Ross. The story is written in the form of a diary that is kept by Mrs. Bentley. Mrs. Bentley is the wife of Philip Bentley—a Protestant reverend in a small town by the name Horizon. Mrs. Bentley’s marriage is...
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- Critical Essays
“As for Me and My House” is a story by Sinclair Ross. The story is written in the form of a diary that is kept by Mrs. Bentley. Mrs. Bentley is the wife of Philip Bentley—a Protestant reverend in a small town by the name Horizon. Mrs. Bentley’s marriage is on the rocks and her husband does not show any signs of affection to her. She desperately tries to rekindle Philip’s affection from time to time, but her efforts prove futile. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bentley befriends Paul Kirby, who is a teacher and a philologist. Paul is quite affectionate towards Mrs. Bentley, but she does not feel the same way. Later, Paul introduces the family to Steve; Steve is a Catholic boy who the Bentleys adopt for a short period before custody is given to the Catholic priests on the basis of religion.
For the period that Steve lived with the Bentleys, the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bentley improved a great deal but deteriorated as soon as the boy was taken away from them. Mrs. Bentley becomes ill after Steve is taken away. Judith, who is in love with Philip, steps in to assist her with the house chores. When Mrs. Bentley learns that Judith is pregnant, she believes that it was her husband’s doing. The Bentleys' marriage is even further estranged because of these suspicions. Unfortunately for Judith, she dies after giving birth, and the Bentley’s adopt her child. This becomes the turning point in their lives as the baby creates a stronger bond in the family; they plan to start a new life away from Horizon.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 647
The narrative of As for Me and My House takes the form of Mrs. Bentley’s diary. The diary entries, spanning two springtimes during the Great Depression, recount a year in the lives of a small-town preacher and his wife in a drought-stricken prairie community. The United Church parish in Horizon is Philip Bentley’s fourth ministry in twelve years. For Mrs. Bentley, the new parish is yet another in a series of communities to which she has had to adjust over the twelve years of her childless marriage. Caught in the inexorable grind of economic dependence, the Bentleys live a life of controlled despair. The dominant mood in the household has taken its toll on their marriage; communication and affection between husband and wife have been reduced to awkwardly formal gestures.
Mrs. Bentley’s defensive reserve is penetrated by Paul Kirby, the local schoolteacher, who becomes a regular companion and dinner guest. Paul amuses the Bentleys with philological trivia, which breaks the oppressive silence of their home. He also introduces them to Steve Kulanich, a motherless boy abandoned by a profligate father. When the Bentleys adopt Steve, Philip begins to shake off years of spiritual emptiness and physical inertia. Philip’s elation, however, is short-lived, for two months later, two Catholic priests come to claim the boy on religious grounds, and they take him to their orphanage.
Once Steve has left, the Bentleys’ spiritual health deteriorates further, and Mrs. Bentley eventually becomes so physically ill that her friend Judith West must perform the duties of nurse and housekeeper in the Bentley home for a few days. Acutely uneasy about this domestic intrusion by a woman who is infatuated with Philip, Mrs. Bentley believes that her fears of her husband’s infidelity have been confirmed when one night she hears Judith’s laughter coming from the shed at the back of the house. Overwhelmed by anxiety, Mrs. Bentley does not dare to verify her suspicions, but she is not surprised to discover later that Judith is pregnant. Judith retreats in disgrace from Horizon to her family’s rural home, refusing to disclose the identity of her lover.
During the winter, the Bentleys become more estranged, both husband and wife harboring resentments which ultimately affect their closest companions. In her loneliness, Mrs. Bentley cultivates two new friendships which increase the distance between her and Philip. El Greco, an adopted stray hound, accompanies her on the long, desperate walks she takes to escape the tension at home. Paul becomes more attentive to Mrs. Bentley as her loneliness becomes more apparent. El Greco’s fate stands as an allegory of Paul’s. Having learned from his mistress the habit of walking to the edge of town, El Greco makes the walk alone one night only to be devoured by wolves. As loyal and ingenuous as the family dog, Paul falls deeply in love with Mrs. Bentley, unaware that she is using his companionship merely as a diversion and perhaps even as a ploy in the emotional games she is playing with her husband.
Late in Judith’s pregnancy, the Bentleys devise a plan to escape their unhappiness. Without consulting Judith, they decide to adopt her baby when it is born. With the money that Mrs. Bentley has managed to save, they intend to buy a secondhand bookstore in a nearby town. Their plans revive their optimism; Philip will finally be able to leave a vocation for which he is temperamentally unsuited, and the baby will provide their marriage with the focus it has lacked for many years. Yet when Philip tells Judith of the plan, she is driven to some desperate wandering of her own; the baby is born a month premature, and Judith dies the next day. After Judith’s death, the Bentleys take the baby and prepare to leave Horizon for a new life in a new town.