Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515
The first-person narrator records his side of the quarrel with his bride’s family, in a household ruled by Marge’s maiden aunt Eunice. He reveals his youthful egotism in the first paragraph by proclaiming his intention to reveal the facts to the “citizens of the U.S.A.”
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Though the setting and circumstances have some of the qualities of the seamier, possibly degenerate rural South popular in some southern literature, they hardly suggest any dark secrets. The two maiden aunts in their big old house, with “real columns out in front” and japonica trees lining the yard, are certainly eccentric, and Marge’s maiden aunt Olivia-Ann may be, as the narrator puts it, a “half-wit,” but the narrator himself is hardly an unbiased observer. He may overestimate the stupidity of others, because he is not overly bright himself.
The narrator reveals that he married Marge four days after meeting her—his first mistake. He does not know why, except that she is a “natural blonde,” though he can find nothing else to recommend her. Marge has “no looks, no body, and no brains whatsoever.” She soon “up and gets pregnant” (his second mistake, he says) and insists on going home to Mama—except that she does not have any Mama, only two aunts living in the country. The narrator gives up his job of clerking in the Cash ’n’ Carry and accompanies his wife to her former home.
His reception in this all-female household is not comforting. The maiden aunts look him over like a piece of livestock and proclaim him undersized and effeminate in appearance. Olivia-Ann says, “The very idea of this little runt running around claiming to be a man! Why, he isn’t even of the male sex!” He is not allowed to sleep with his wife but is put on a cot on the back porch, where the mosquitoes swarm and make sleep difficult.
Bad feeling between the idle husband and the houseful of women comes to a head one day when Olivia-Ann accuses the narrator of damaging her piano, even though the young man claims to be a “natural born musician.” He, in turn, threatens to reveal a secret he had promised not to tell—that Olivia-Ann deliberately let Eunice’s canary loose and shooed it out of the house. Eunice, however, is already on the warpath, charging him with stealing a one-hundred-dollar bill from her secret cache of funeral money. Even Bluebell, the old black maid, and Marge are against him. When Bluebell says that she is “sick and tired of carryin’ his ol’ slop jar,” the narrator snatches up an umbrella from the stand and bangs her on the head. Although Marge tries to protect Bluebell from the assault, Eunice is appalled at his ruining her “real Japanese silk parasol.”
The free-for-all seems likely to have more violent results because Eunice then comes after him swinging her father’s Confederate sword, but at this point, Marge faints. The story closes with the husband barricaded alone in the parlor eating chocolates, while the women fuss with Marge upstairs.