(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On the eve of his niece’s wedding, the narrator and his family attend a dinner party given in her honor. The bride, who is marrying relatively late in life, originally vowed to spend her years in a convent. The narrator wonders why she has changed her mind; he muses ironically that she more likely was seduced than converted.

During dinner, the narrator is in a jolly mood because his wife has convinced Dr. Paoli to allow him to eat and drink whatever he wants on this occasion. Normally, he is on a severe diet but, free to indulge himself now, he feels like “running and jumping like a dog slipped from his chain.” This rebellious feeling makes him drink an inordinate amount of a dry Istrian wine, which he hopes will make him forget the cares of life. The wine does not bring him gaiety and forgetfulness, however, but merely makes him even more angry and depressed.

In the midst of the festivities, the narrator—who is a socialist—argues with Giovanni, a capitalist, about the value of money. Their debate becomes heated and vicious; finally the narrator shouts at Giovanni: “We will hang you, a rope round your neck and weights on your feet.” Almost immediately, he feels astonished and guilty for having made such a remark. After his sister intervenes to comment on how well he looks, his wife asks him to stop drinking and tells a neighbor to take away his wine. Soon, everyone present begins rebuking him; this makes him even more irate. He is increasingly angry with his wife for humiliating him in such a fashion. When even his daughter, Emma, feels the need to berate him, he scolds her and causes...

(The entire section is 663 words.)