Stanley and the Women

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At the outset Stanley, the narrator and the protagonist, seems comfortably settled with his second wife Susan, a book reviewer and an assistant literary editor of a newspaper. For four years, they have been compatible and affectionate. Yet, their life is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of Steve, the teenage son of Stanley and his first wife, Nowell. Clearly something is wrong with Steve, who appears confused and disoriented. Professional help is sought for him after he mutilates one of Susan’s books and destroys a television set at Nowell’s house.

Steve is committed to a private mental hospital. Stanley, however, does not approve of Steve’s psychiatrist, Trish Collings, who spouts catchy phrases and advocates fashionable cures. Trish, for her part, sides with Nowell and accuses Stanley of rejecting Steve as a young boy, thereby setting the stage for Steve’s present mental state.

Steve suffers from delusions, believing that secret agents are tapping into his mind with radio waves and that Jewish conspirators are trying to take over the world. It is not only Steve who appears mad. Collings commits serious errors in treating Steve; she releases him before he can cope with reality and discontinues his drug therapy. When Stanley questions her judgment, she explodes, threatening to discontinue all treatment. Nowell, Stanley’s first wife, is also somewhat unstable, changing the past to suit her version of reality. Even Susan appears to...

(The entire section is 444 words.)