Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719
Set in a typical small New England town, The Witches of Eastwick offers a witty, irreverent, and pointed glimpse of small-town people and values, but with a twist. The three main characters are witches, and amid local gossip, scandal, and sorcery, they seek the perfect relationship by any means.
The Witches of Eastwick is divided into three chapters. These sections (“The Coven,” “Malefica,” and “Guilt”) respectively introduce the players and the situation, resolve the various conflicts that arise, and detail the aftermath. The story is related by an unseen, omniscient narrator who is a town resident.
The story begins as the three principal characters, Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont—all divorced, and whose former husbands are literally gathering dust on shelves in their homes—prepare to meet at Sukie’s for one of their weekly “Thursdays.” At such rendezvous, the three relax with a few drinks, gossip about the latest affairs they are having with various tired Eastwick husbands, and practice witchcraft.
During the first section of the novel, the narrator details the minutiae of life in Eastwick; however, the focus remains largely on the three witches, the various tricks and pranks they play (at times outright nasty), and their own boredom-generated affairs. The reader becomes acquainted with Alexandra’s deep, earthy rootedness and power; with Jane’s cranky, precise nature and passion for music; and with Sukie’s good-natured, inquisitive sensuality.
Darryl Van Horne makes his appearance at a community concert. Ostensibly, he has come to Eastwick to further his aim of inventing a solar-energy-collecting paint, but little is actually known of Darryl. The town is enthusiastic about his plans to renovate an old property that has been a tax drain on the community for some time. His near-grotesque appearance and “New York vulgar” manner repulse some, including the more sensitive Alexandra, but his brash and outspoken coarseness charms others, especially Jane. Immediately, it is clear that Darryl is interested in the three witches, and shortly, through appeals to each of their secret desires, he has managed to coax all of them into visiting the old Lenox mansion, which he is lavishly remodeling to suit his hedonistic purposes.
Soon, Darryl and the three witches are frequent companions at his home. There, sometimes on his dome tennis court (where tennis balls undergo startling transformations), but especially within the environs of his decadently lavish “playroom,” which includes a mammoth teakwood Jacuzzi, the four cavort sensuously, waited upon by Darryl’s servant, Fidel.
Meanwhile, changes are taking place within the community. Ed Parsley, the young Unitarian minister, lately Sukie’s lover, runs off to join the peace movement. (He is later killed while making a bomb.) Prim Brenda Parsley, Ed’s wife, finding a hidden assertiveness within herself, takes over the church’s ministry. Felicia Gabriel, the shrewish moral crusader, begins to find an odd assortment of feathers, thumbtacks, and insects issuing from her mouth. Clyde Gabriel, Sukie’s boss and the editor of the Eastwick Word, consumed by alcohol-induced guilt and in constant misery brought on by his wife’s nagging, kills her with a fireplace poker, then hangs himself. This event brings Clyde and Felicia’s children, Jenny and Chris, back to Eastwick. Soon, the two youths begin to take part in the regular festivities at the old mansion.
Things begin to sour among the Eastwick fivesome of Darryl, Alexandra, Jane, Sukie, and Jenny as jealousies start to surface. Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie all nurture fantasies concerning an eventual life together with Darryl, but he surprises and ultimately alienates the three by his announcement of marriage to the young Jenny....
(The entire section contains 1870 words.)
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