The Stucco House Summary
by Ellen Gilchrist

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The Stucco House Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Stucco House,” told mostly from a young boy’s perspective, is a glimpse into a failing marriage with one parent abdicating her role as a mother and the other realizing that he prefers his young stepson to his wife.

As the story opens, Teddy, asleep with his stuffed animals, is awakened at daybreak by his stepfather, Eric, who wants Teddy to go with him to find Rhoda, who did not come home the previous night. They locate her on the staircase of a duplex, unconscious, wearing nothing but pantyhose. The father suspects alcohol and an affair but tells Teddy that she fell down the stairs. Young though he is, Teddy recognizes that his mother is drunk.

After his stepfather brings his mother back to their upscale New Orleans home, Teddy watches over her. She awakens and irrationally confides in him that Eric tried to kill her and that he must inform his grandparents. Although he silently dismisses the accusation and expresses concern to himself about her sanity, he, later, does as instructed. Thinking of Teddy’s welfare, Eric has the gardener, who obviously cares for the boy, drive Teddy to his grandparents’ house in Mandeville. Anticipating the boy’s visit, his grandfather readies the horses and searches for the archery equipment, and his grandmother bakes a caramel cake. Even so, Teddy would prefer to remain with Eric.

In one of the few scenes not narrated from Teddy’s point of view, Eric goes into Rhoda’s room, looks at her watercolors (a new venture of hers), thinks that she is talented, and reads from a journal that she intentionally left out. He is curious about any new affairs. The entry shows him that there have been some, but it also reveals that she is despondent and unhappy with her life as a wife and mother. Although he questions their marriage, he realizes that he loves Teddy and that Teddy depends on him. When Rhoda recovers, she bemoans her fate as a failed poet because some of her poems were rejected by an obscure journal, suggests that she and Eric go out to dinner, and then abruptly denies that she had sex the previous night.

However, Eric is more concerned with his actions than hers. He had used Teddy to protect himself against her possible accusations, thus exposing the child to the sight of his unconscious and nearly naked mother. Leaving Rhoda (and it is not clear if it is for an afternoon or if it signals the end of the marriage), he goes to the farm to get Teddy and thinks about taking a trip with him to Disney World.