Morley Callaghan

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Who is the protagonist in Morley Callaghan's "A Little Beaded Bag", and what conflict do they face? What is the significance of the title and the story's irony?

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"A Little Beaded Bag" is a short story written by Canadian novelist, playwright, and short story writer Morley Callaghan. In it, Mrs. Evans tries to convince her husband that the maid, Eva, stole her beaded bag. But Mr. Evans doesn't believe her because he likes Eva. Mrs. Evans then sends Eva to the drug store so that she could search Eva's room. Mrs. Evans does, indeed, find the bag, but Eva confesses that she found the bag in the trash; the three discuss the problem, and, in the end, Mrs. Evans gives the bag to Eva in hopes that both Eva and her husband will forgive her for her accusations.

The main protagonist of the story is Mrs. Evans. She is stubborn and determined, but, by the end of the story, she learns how to be kinder, more humble, and forgiving. At first, her goal was to prove to her husband that she was right all along and that Eva really did steal the bag. Finding her beaded bag in Eva's club bag didn't help Eva's case at all. However, she realizes that she was mistaken and that she was quick to judge Eva—because there was actually a very simple explanation. This is, essentially, how her character develops throughout the story; Mrs. Evans gradually transforms into a better person.

The conflict is actually the rising action of the story, where Mrs. Evans tries to prove to her husband that Eva stole her beaded bag:

"You may be interested to know Eva stole that beaded bag of mine."

"What's that? What bag?" he exclaimed.

"You know the one, the one I had a year ago."

"Why, the kid wouldn't touch it," he said sharply. "You know that as well as I do. She's a fine kind. You've been trying for weeks to find some little flaw in her, and you've had to admit, you couldn't. Don't start picking away at her."

It seemed so unjust that he should challenge her, and as they faced each other, she said bitterly: "I'm not picking at her or you. I'm simply telling you a fact. The bag was there this morning and it's gone." (pg. 141–142)

In fact, there are three conflicts in the story: Mrs. Evans vs her husband, Mrs. Evans vs Eva, and, the most important one, Mrs. Evans vs herself, as she learns how to overcome her insecurities.

The title of the story is very significant because it puts Mrs. Evans's little beaded bag into focus. The beaded bag is actually a symbol for Mrs. and Mr. Evans relationship; it is noteworthy to mention that the bag is not new and even has some beads loose, and at the beginning of the story Mrs. Evans carelessly throws it away in the trash without looking at it twice. But her jealousy gets to her, and suddenly the bag becomes this valuable object which she uses as evidence to "confirm" her doubts about her marriage. In the end, Mrs. Evans begs Eva to take the bag in hopes that she will be forgiven. This action might actually symbolize Mrs. Evans's attempts to get rid of her character flaws and fix her relationship with her husband.

Interestingly enough, the little beaded bag represents the main theme and idea of the story, and it's also an object which helps the readers see where the author used irony. For instance, when Eva explains how she found the bag in the trash, she said that she wanted to see if it could be fixed. Ironically, Mr. and Mrs. Evans's relationship truly needs "fixing":

"I only wanted to see if it could be fixed." (pg. 145)

Mrs. Evans even suggests that Eva might be able to fix the bag, sardonically saying to Eva that she's good with needles. This is also ironic because, when one thinks about the narrative, it becomes clear that Eva did, in fact, "fix" Mr. and Mrs. Evans's relationship and helped them realize that they are capable of love and kindness.

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