Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 760
‘‘A Point at Issue!’’ begins with the wedding announcement of Eleanor Gail and Charles Faraday, as printed in the Plymdale Promulgator, the couple’s local newspaper. Eleanor is not happy with the announcement because she considers it to be ‘‘an indelicate thrusting of herself upon the public notice.’’ She had agreed to the announcement as a concession to social rules, hoping that she would not have to make such concessions in the future.
Her new husband, Charles, regards her as the ideal woman; he is happy that she is ‘‘logical’’ and will study subjects with him such as philosophy and science. When Eleanor declares that she wants to learn to speak French fluently, the two decide that she will study in Paris while he spends most of the year in America. After their European honeymoon, Eleanor rents rooms in Paris and Charles returns to Plymdale, planning to spend the following summer with her. The couple’s behavior outrages Plymdale society, which is indignant at the idea that ‘‘two young people should presume to introduce such innovations into matrimony.’’ The two write each other regularly.
Charles begins spending his free time with the Beatons, a local family, finding them ‘‘all clever people, bright and interesting.’’ Mr. Beaton is a colleague at the university where Charles teaches. Charles thoroughly enjoys the company of this happy family, especially that of their blissful and self-absorbed youngest daughter, Kitty. Charles writes to Eleanor expressing his admiration for the young girl, dismissing as illogical the possibility that his wife would be jealous, but Eleanor does not send back a response with her usual promptness. When a letter finally does arrive, it expresses an ‘‘inexplicable coldness’’ in tone. However, he soon receives several letters from his wife ‘‘that shook him with their unusual ardor.’’
After a winter apart from his wife, Charles leaves for Paris to see her. Before he arrives, there is a description of Eleanor pacing her rooms, obviously disturbed, fighting ‘‘a misery of the heart, against which her reason was in armed rebellion.’’ The narrator does not reveal the nature of the misery that causes Eleanor to collapse in ‘‘a storm of sobs and tears.’’
When Charles arrives, he sees only his familiar, idealized vision of his wife, but then notices that she has become more beautiful. As they converse, a housemaid appears, eyeing Eleanor ‘‘with the glance of a fellow conspirator’’ and holding a card in her hand. Eleanor hastily thrusts the card in her pocket and turns toward Charles ‘‘a little flustered.’’
A few days later, Charles interrupts a conversation between Eleanor and a handsome man in her parlor. The narrator notes that ‘‘they were both disconcerted’’ and that Eleanor ‘‘had the appearance of wanting to run away, to do any thing but meet her husband’s glance.’’ Charles accepts his wife’s assertion that her visitor was ‘‘no one special.’’ A few days later, however, when Eleanor tells him vaguely that she has an urgent appointment, he begins to question his wife’s fidelity.
Unable to rid his mind of ‘‘ugly thoughts,’’ Charles walks around Paris. While sitting at a café, he sees Eleanor riding in a carriage with the same man who had come to see her. Both appear in high spirits. Charles’s initial reaction is to ‘‘tear the scoundrel from his seat and paint the boulevard red with his villainous blood.’’
When Charles returns to their apartment, he finds Eleanor waiting impatiently for him. She leads him excitedly into the parlor where he meets the handsome stranger. Eleanor presents him to Charles as an artist who has just completed a portrait of her, intended as a surprise for Charles’s arrival. She notes that its completion had been delayed, hence the necessity, Charles understands, for their meetings.
As Charles begins his plans to return home, Eleanor asks him whether he believes that she has gained a good command of French, and he answers in the affirmative. She then suggests he book a passage home for two, which fills him with happiness. Then, he inquires about the coldness of the letter she had sent him a few months ago, and Eleanor admits that it was written in response to his declaration of his feelings for Kitty. Eleanor reveals her failure to suppress jealous emotions but insists that she believes that her husband has remained faithful. Astonished at her admitted jealousy, Charles concludes to himself, ‘‘but my Nellie is only a woman after all.’’ The narrator closes the story noting the fact that Charles has conveniently forgotten his own jealousy.
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