(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the story opens, with George Silverton, a solicitor’s clerk, entering his darkened house after a day’s work, there is an immediate sense of unease. George is evidently a sour, dry, secretive man who resents everything about his wife Evadne—her exotic beauty, which can sometimes change to ugliness; her quick, emotional response to things that he regards as trivial; her small, sensual pleasures; and above all her apparent refusal to respond to or even, perhaps, notice his growing irritation.

All of this might seem to be typical of the situation between an ill-matched husband and wife. As the author describes George’s life before marriage, however, George emerges as a misogynist with a neurotic fear and hatred of sex. He had cherished the idea of wife-desertion as a justifiable way for a man to cleanse himself of what he called “the secret obscenity of women.” He married Evadne in the belief that they shared a bond of spiritual purity but quickly came to the conclusion that her interest in the marriage was purely physical. This disgusted him.

Ten years later, he feels cheated and physically defiled. The crisis point is reached when a letter arrives enclosing a handbill announcing that Mrs. Evadne Silverton is to speak at a public meeting in support of Stephen Langton, a Socialist candidate for the town council. Although George is a radical, in the mild reformist meaning of the term, the word “socialism” and the sight of Evadne’s name—his surname—on the handbill appall him. His evaluation of his wife as a woman of emotional and intellectual triviality is undermined by his refusal to acknowledge even to himself that she has become a popular and respected political speaker and writer.

Political bigotry becomes mixed up with sexual bigotry. He tells her that Langton is a man of low morals, and when Evadne tries to defend him, he accuses her of being a “slut” and threatens to throw her out of the house if she speaks at the meeting. She hides her hurt by going into the kitchen and noisily washing up. George follows her and picks up a...

(The entire section is 853 words.)