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Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458

The first and last parts of the story are narrated from the viewpoint of Teddy, whose name suggests one of the stuffed animals on his bed, thereby not only implying his innocence but also suggesting his mother’s lack of concern and her tendency to treat him like a teddy bear or a toy. The reader is presented with a picture of how a seven-year-old’s mind works. The boy reads a book about magic and believes that with the right spell he can be transformed into an animal or be rendered invisible. He thinks that God plays a game devising bad things to do to people then arbitrarily changes his mind. He thinks that if there is a divorce, he will be able to choose to live with Eric and that they will be bachelors together. Clearly his interpretations of the events are a child’s. Juxtaposed with Teddy’s understanding are the views of Eric, Big George, Ingersol, and his grandparents; the reader is given multiple perspectives of the mother and her behavior, none of which is flattering. Even though Teddy is only seven, the reader is provided with enough evidence to trust the child.

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The ending is ambiguous. Does Eric leave for a few hours or for good? It also implies a solution that is fanciful and unrealistic. Going to Disney World does not address the problems in the marriage. One cannot remain in a make-believe world but must eventually return to the stucco house, a house that appears solid because of the facade but may be cracked underneath the stucco. In a similar fashion, the family in the story appears solid, having an expensive home in New Orleans, a gardener and housekeeper, and artistic friends, but underneath there are deep divisions.

“The Stucco House” benefits from the southern roots of Gilchrist, who was born in Mississippi and lived in New Orleans and Arkansas. The setting in the story is New Orleans, home of Gilchrist from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1970’s, and Mandeville, a town on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. References are made to New Orleans streets, food, and the heat and humidity of its summer. The region also influences Gilchrist’s characters. The Rhoda stories challenge southern assumptions about girls and women, questioning the southern tradition as exemplified by New Orleans and the delta plantation where Gilchrist spent her summers as a child. Thus the young Rhoda is energetic and ambitious. In the later stories, including “The Stucco House,” Rhoda rejects the confining roles of wife and mother and searches for her own voice, refusing to be satisfied with what society dictates. Gilchrist, who published her first book at forty-four after raising her three sons, would recognize Rhoda’s struggle.

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