Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sally Benson’s short story is a portrayal of the American suburban housewife of the 1930’s. Because Dorothy Grannis is a potentially interesting character, she is too undeveloped and one-dimensional to function as the story’s main subject. “Profession: Housewife” is not intended to be a character study; Dorothy merely represents a wider phenomenon experienced by many women of her time period. The title also works to inform the reader that Benson’s concern here is with the role of the housewife at that moment in history. She particularly emphasizes the housewife’s loneliness, frustration, and rage as Dorothy lives out one tedious, narrowly circumscribed day of her married existence.

The story opens with the detailed description of the Grannises’ middle-class kitchen, and the first emotion that Dorothy expresses is anger at having her invitation turned down. In fact, she is so angry at this snub that she slams her hand down on the table, spilling her coffee. The ensuing dialogue between her and her husband reveals that Dorothy believes she is doing everything right, that she is following the rules that accompany her job as housewife. She keeps a clean house; however, a spotless house cannot begin to compensate for her loneliness. Further, Joe’s parting shot—that he cannot help it if she cannot make friends for herself—stings her. Wounded, Dorothy withdraws, giving Joe no more than a formal, indignant reply.

Dorothy then...

(The entire section is 558 words.)