Characters

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Last Updated on June 16, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 561

Bill Miller

The protagonist of the story is a man named Bill Miller, who works as a bookkeeper. He and his wife, Arlene, are happy, but they envy their neighbors, the Stones, who they imagine live fuller and more satisfying and exciting lives. Bill helps to care for the Stones’ cat and plants while the Stones go on yet another vacation, and he becomes strangely fascinated with the Stones’ things. He even goes so far as to steal items from their apartment—such as a bottle of Harriet’s pills from the medicine cabinet and a pack of cigarettes from the nightstand—and to drink the whiskey in their liquor cabinet and eat the food in their refrigerator. What’s more, he becomes sexually aroused by snooping around and examining their possessions. Every time he returns to his apartment from the Stones’, he immediately wants to have sex with his wife. The last time he is there, he even masturbates on their bed and tries on their clothes, perhaps trying to pretend that he is one of them. Bill seems to be aroused by the power he has as a result of his full and private access to another couple’s lives. It even makes him alter his own routine, leaving work early one day, calling out another, and having sex with his wife at all hours. When Arlene asks what has taken him so long at the Stones’, he replies that he was playing with the cat or that he had to use the toilet.

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Arlene Miller

Arlene Miller, Bill’s wife, is a secretary, and she goes through something remarkably similar to her husband’s experience at the Stones’ apartment. The one time (that we know of) that she goes to the Stones’ place, she also likely masturbates on their bed, indicating that she, too, is experiencing some sexual excitement and arousal from being a voyeur in her neighbors’ home. Both Bill and Arlene lie to each other about what they are doing in the Stones’ place, indicating that they know they are doing things they should not be; like her husband, Arlene claims she spent so long at the Stones’ because she was playing with the cat. At the end of the story, Arlene tells Bill that she has “found some pictures”—likely private ones—in a drawer at the Stones’ and offers to show Bill, but she has accidentally locked the key in the apartment.

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Latest answer posted April 18, 2010, 1:41 pm (UTC)

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Jim and Harriet Stone

Jim and Harriet Stone are the unwitting couple who think that their neighbors, the Millers, are doing them a good turn by watching their place; feeding their cat, Kitty; and taking care of their plants when, really, the Millers are stealing their things and masturbating on their bed. They take trips connected with Jim’s work as “a salesman at a machine-parts firm,” trusting that their home and pet are in good hands. They even bring thoughtful gifts home for the Millers as a thank-you, it seems, for their help, such as a tablecloth that Harriet bought for Arlene in Santa Fe. When at home, the Stones always seem to be eating out or hosting guests at their apartment. In the story, they leave for a ten-day trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and St. Louis, Missouri, inadvertently leaving the Millers plenty of time to get acquainted with their home.

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