Beneath the surface of each of the major characters in Foreign Affairs are a number of fantastic selves that run contrary to first impressions. The seemingly self-sufficient Vinnie reveals another identity through her imaginary dog Fido, who embodies her self-pity and self-involvement. Although Vinnie’s appearance is that of an unprepossessing, inhibited, middle-aged professor, when she ventures into the London night to search for Fred, she seems to become a hooded, mysterious Druid acting as an agent of destiny for her hapless colleague. By the end of her story, Vinnie is not the self-absorbed, mousy snob she suggests on the surface but instead has become a wise woman who can act generously and insightfully. This is indicated most interestingly by Vinnie’s name. Her last name, Miner, suggests her status as a “minor” figure whom no one really notices—she is a minor writer, and an older woman who would ordinarily play only a minor role in a romantic comedy of manners. If her professional name is read as an anagram, however, she emerges not as the diminutive, easily overlooked V. A. Miner but as Minerva, goddess of wisdom.
Like Vinnie, Chuck Mumpson also reveals a deeper and better identity, giving him new dignity and status. This transformation from an undesirable partner to a worthy consort echoes the well-known “Frog Prince” fairy tale and is also indicated by his ancestor, Old Mumpson. Chuck discovers that Old Mumpson was a...
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