A Reliable Wife - Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 3 and 4 Summary & Analysis

Robert Goolrick
This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Reliable Wife.
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Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 3 and 4 Summary

Chapter 3: When Catherine gets off the train, she recognizes Truitt easily, noting his apparent richness and loneliness. She introduces herself, and the surprised Truitt confronts her about the fact that face is not that of the woman in the photograph. She says it's a photo of her cousin India and offers to explain, but aware that they are being watched, Truitt takes her and her things out to where his carriage is waiting, commenting that he is fully aware their relationship is beginning with a lie. As they drive out into the country, Catherine becomes uncomfortably aware of how isolated she is, recalling the happiness and fun of the city. For his part, Truitt plans to get rid of Catherine in a couple of days. When a deer suddenly darts in front of the carriage, the horses are startled and bolt. Catherine hangs on desperately as Truitt, equally desperate, tries to get the horses under control but is eventually thrown off, his head colliding with a wheel. Catherine takes the reins, letting the horses go where they will. At one point, the hem of her dress tears. She and the horses end up on a frozen river, where the horses stop and Catherine is able to calm them down, leading them back up to the road. There they find a wounded Truitt who, in spite of his apparent reluctance to let Catherine touch him, allows himself to be helped into the carriage. He tells Catherine the horses know their way home, and then collapses.

Chapter 4: When they arrive at Truitt's house, Catherine is surprised to see that it seems both well-kept and welcoming. The servants, Mr. and Mrs. Larsen, rush out and help as they arrive, realizing that one of the horses has a broken leg. When Truitt is carried inside, Catherine asks for her case and, when it arrives, uses her needle and thread to sew closed the wound in his head, lying and saying that she learned to do it by watching her doctor father. Meanwhile, she realizes that the jewelry has fallen out of her torn hem, the wounded horse is shot, and Truitt falls into unconsciousness. After Catherine is finished, Mr. and Mrs. Larsen take Truitt upstairs, leaving Catherine alone. She looks around herself for the first time and realizes that the home's furnishings, while mostly rustic, are in a few cases also very expensive. As Larsen continues to walk Truitt to keep him from again falling unconscious, Mrs. Larsen gives Catherine some of the very well-cooked dinner she has prepared, later showing her to her bedroom. Catherine takes off her blood-soaked dress and unpacks her belongings, narration noting how she pays particular attention to a small blue bottle. As she prepares for bed, she comes to an uncomfortable realization that her life has suddenly become both more real than, and exactly the opposite of everything her fantasies ever were, and what her schemes had led her into. She is just settling into bed when Mrs. Larsen comes and tells her that Truitt has a fever.

Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 3 and 4 Analysis

The confrontation between Catherine and Truitt over the falseness of her identity can be seen as the introduction of an important motif or repeated image of Catherine's practice of lying to Truitt and his reactions to the truth. This complicated tension between what Catherine wants Truitt to believe, what he wants to believe, and what he accepts and understands continues throughout the narrative, with Catherine's change in attitude towards lying and Truitt's expansion of what he can accept and understand becoming key elements of their journey of transformation. Meanwhile, the reference to Catherine's sense of isolation is a reiteration of a similar sense experienced by Truitt in Chapter 1, with both references serving as manifestations of the narrative's thematic interest in both the image and the effects of isolation. Then there is the reference to the loss of Catherine's jewelry, which functions on two levels. In the first, the loss of the jewels can be seen as a symbolic reiteration of the isolation she is experiencing (i.e. with the jewelry lost, she has no means of paying her way out of that isolation. On a second level, the reference is a foreshadowing of the jewelry eventually being found in the spring, and of her discovery that she no longer longs for the freedom that the jewelry once represented.

Other important elements in this section include Catherine and Truitt's encounter with the deer, a symbolic foreshadowing of the wildness that each of them encounters in themselves over the course of the narrative; Catherine's reference to her cousin India, which foreshadows India's appearance in Chapter 20; and the reference to the blue glass bottle, which is another foreshadowing of her plan to poison Truitt and her putting that plan into action.

This section contains 823 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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