A Reliable Wife - Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 7, 8 and 9 Summary & Analysis

Robert Goolrick
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Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 7, 8 and 9 Summary

Chapter 7: One day, Truitt tells Catherine the story of his life - his indulgent, busy father, his relationship with his mother, his constant lustful desires, of his young adulthood, of his meeting Emilia. He then tells her how, while Emilia was pregnant, he had a house built for her with material shipped from Italy, how part of the house included a secret Italian garden, how she moved in shortly after their daughter (Francesca) was born, and how she insisted on sleeping in a separate bedroom. He describes how he had a piano teacher brought from Italy, how the teacher and Emilia had a long affair, how Francesca became ill with influenza (survived, but was brain damaged), and how Emilia gave birth to another child, Antonio. Eventually, he says, he caught the piano teacher and Emilia together. He beat the teacher almost to death, threw both him and Emilia out of the house, and moved back to his family's house, his mother leaving immediately and never returning. Francesca eventually died, while Truitt's hatred for Antonio, who looked just like Emilia, grew and Antonio's for him did the same. Eventually, Truitt says, Antonio left home after Truitt told him Emilia had been killed in a fire - she did die eventually, Truitt says, but hadn't at that time. Over the years, Truitt adds, he's realized that he behaved very badly, but now wants Antonio back since he's all he's got left. He confesses that recently, he had set detectives looking for Antonio, and that they believe he's been found - playing piano in a whorehouse in St. Louis. He then says that he told Catherine everything he did because he believes it's important she know everything about his life, as they're to be married, even if she did send a picture of someone else. Catherine, who had said earlier that she wanted to avoid being judged by her beauty, confesses that she doesn't love him. He says he doesn't expect it, but adds that he doesexpect her to go to St. Louis and bring Antonio to him.

Chapter 8: As the days pass, Truitt's thoughts become more and more lustful, imagining all the things he wants to do to Catherine and the things he wants her to do to him. But he says nothing, expressing his desire in gifts and trinkets that she accepts without knowing the desire they represent. Meanwhile, plans are made for a wedding, Truitt telling Catherine she can have whatever she likes. Meanwhile, he continues to recall his past sexual adventures, becoming sexually aroused when Catherine expresses interest in his thoughts. The chapter concludes with a reference to how Truitt lies in bed, wondering whether Catherine sleeping in a room down the hall, is thinking of him while he's thinking of her. Catherine, meanwhile, constantly imagines herself smoking, which is a habit she has given up since she arrived at Truitt's home.

Chapter 9: Truitt gives Catherine everything she wants such as a a beautiful diamond ring, a pair of dark glasses so she can look out at the snow without being blinded, and a tour of the Italian house. She falls in love with it immediately and starts secretly spending time during the day while Truitt is at work. Eventually, he and Catherine are married, at the house with their vows witnessed by strangers. That night they make love for the first time, both of them restraining their desire and their previous experience. Their desire for each other increases, to the point where everything else in their days became merely tolerable during their anticipation of making love in the evening. Meanwhile, she is becoming less and less aware of the presence of the blue glass bottle and of its meaning. Finally, on New Year's Day, Catherine takes her dress and her dark glasses with the blue bottle is left behind and gets on a train for St. Louis in search of the long-lost Antonio.

Part 1 - Wisconsin, Fall, 1907 - Chapters 7, 8 and 9 Analysis

In Chapter 7, Truitt reveals still more information about his troubled past, a past that has some significant parallels with Catherine's. Further parallels between the two characters are revealed in Chapter 9, through the portrayal of the restraint that both display in their initial sexual encounter. This last, in turn, is an important point for the journeys of transformation in both characters, as both are finally able to re-connect with what was clearly for each of them an important, dominating aspect of their previous lives.

Other important elements in this section include Truitt's description of Emilia's death, which is markedly different from the story Antonio tells and the introduction to the narrative of the Italian house, which is important for a couple of reasons. First, the description of the house and Catherine's fascination with it foreshadows the important role it plays in her life and those of both Truitt and Antonio later in the narrative. At the same time, the simultaneous reference to the Italian secret garden, which is something of an Italian horticultural tradition that can be seen as a symbolic evocation and foreshadowing of Catherine's secrets, both her secret relationship with Antonio and her secret plan to kill Truitt). The house can also be seen as a symbolic representation of passion such as Emilia's passion for her lover, Catherine and Truitt's growing passion for each other, which grows even more once they move into the Italian house, and Antonio's angry passion for Catherine. This last manifests most dramatically and intensely in Chapter 24, in which his attempt to rape her takes place in the Italian house's conservatory.

Finally, there is the reference in Chapter 8 to Truitt's desire to have Antonio back in his life. The reference foreshadows his sending Catherine to St. Louis at the end of Chapter 9 and also foreshadows the ultimately life-destroying events that take place later in the narrative when Antonio actually does return.

This section contains 996 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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