(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Doug, the narrator of “Inventing the Abbotts,” is the younger of two brothers. The story begins when the brothers are teenagers in Haley, Illinois, and ends with their return to that town when their mother dies. Growing up as the sons of a widowed schoolteacher, each brother yearns in his own way for the wealth and secure social position enjoyed by the Abbott family.

Lloyd and Joan Abbott have made their daughters the center of the town’s social life by hosting several elaborate parties a year for them. Because the parties are held in colorful tents in the Abbotts’ yard near the center of town, everyone knows when one is being set up, and there is much talk about who has and has not been invited.

Jacey, the older brother, is impressed by the Abbotts and by what their wealth represents to him. Doug, after watching his brother worry over his invitations to the Abbotts’ parties, refuses to take the parties seriously. He sometimes attends without responding to the invitation, and once he goes to a party with Elvis-like sideburns drawn on his cheeks with ink.

Jacey is attracted to the Abbott family because of the economic and social differences between the two families. The brothers’ father was killed in the war when Jacey was young and a few months before Doug was born. Their mother moved to Haley where her mother, Grandma Vetter, lived. Grandma Vetter helped raise the boys until her sudden death when Doug was ten.

Jacey’s interest in the Abbott family takes the form of his romantic pursuit of the Abbott sisters. The summer before Jacey leaves for college,...

(The entire section is 660 words.)