(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Susan and Matthew Rawlings are an intelligent, practical, and conventional married couple living in Richmond, a suburb of London. Their twelve-year marriage has produced four children and innumerable sensible decisions. The Rawlingses have a slightly superior attitude toward other couples who allow clichéd problems to disrupt their harmony. When Matthew, a subeditor at a large London newspaper, finally commits adultery, Susan understands and forgives.

Susan, an advertising artist before her marriage, looks forward to the moment when her youngest children, twins, begin school so that she will have some time to herself during the day. Her seemingly perfect family life, however, becomes increasingly insufficient for her, but she is resolved to avoid the typical responses to such inadequacy. She may find some meaning in work but will wait until the children, who need an attentive mother, are older.

Susan battles an increasing depression with her intelligence, trying to find comfort in the always sensible approach she and Matthew take to everything, telling herself she regrets nothing about her life. After the twins finally begin school, Susan finds herself afraid of her new freedom and hides from her depression in cooking, sewing, and other busywork. She is afraid to be alone in her garden, where her loneliness is most likely to manifest itself. Increasingly, she considers her obligations as wife and mother to be pressures that are driving her...

(The entire section is 466 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Part 1
The story begins with a description of the history of Susan and Matthew Rawlings’s marriage, which has been a very...

(The entire section is 942 words.)