A Reliable Wife - Part 2 - St. Louis, Winter, 1908 - Chapters 10, 11 and 12 Summary & Analysis

Robert Goolrick
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Part 2 - St. Louis, Winter, 1908 - Chapters 10, 11 and 12 Summary

Chapter 10: When Catherine arrives in St. Louis, she immediately feels the excitement of the city. She establishes herself in the high-end hotel that Truitt had booked for her and sets about making herself seem as quietly like the locals as she can - the right clothes, the right attitude, the right places at the right times. She meets with the private investigators (Malloy and Fisk) hired by Truitt to find Antonio and, while waiting for them to complete their investigation, fills her time at the public library, researching gardens in general and Italian secret gardens in particular, imagining herself recreating the garden in the Italian house. She also contemplates her relationship with Truitt, considering how much he seems to have enjoyed their nights of passion and how much she has enjoyed helping him have pleasure, but still remembering her plan - that someday, he'll die and she'll get his money. Eventually, Malloy and Fisk return with information about Antonio - he goes by the name Tony Moretti, plays piano and sings in whorehouses and bars (but not very well), travels from place to place across the country, and spends his free time with women and doing drugs. They attempt to talk Catherine out of pursuing Antonio any further, but she insists that they continue, adding that she wants to observe him before actually meeting him, and suggests the three of them dine at the restaurant he frequents once he finishes his performance. Malloy and Fisk reluctantly agree.

Chapter 11: While waiting for Malloy and Fisk to pick her up, Catherine looks through her gardening books, but her nervousness does not ease as she wonders how she is going to follow through on her plan of getting rid of Truitt when there is a son and heir in the picture. Malloy and Fisk finally arrive, and they go to the restaurant. Shortly afterwards, Antonio arrives, is shown immediately to a table, and has food brought right away. Catherine studies him, his movements and his looks, with narration commenting on how absolutely beautiful he is, how all the other women stare at him, and how all the men look at him with disgust. After he finishes his food, Antonio plays the piano, a piece of popular music that he infuses with stylish emotional intensity. Catherine finds herself very moved. After a scattering of applause and Antonio starts to leave, his playing apparently serving as payment of his bill, he stops by Catherine's table, makes flirtatious small talk, and goes. Malloy and Fisk again try to talk Catherine out of pursuing him any further, but Catherine says they're there to do Truitt's bidding, and will see him again.

Chapter 12: Catherine's mind and body quickly become preoccupied with fantasies about Antonio. On the day she and the investigators are to visit him, she dresses carefully, excitedly. After Malloy and Fisk pick her up, they make their way through an intensely poor part of town to where Moretti is staying, and discover him in his beautifully furnished, but messy, apartment. Malloy and Fisk suggest that he is Truitt's son, but he refuses to believe them, giving what he says is his true family history in rebuttal. As he's becoming angry, Catherine tells him who she i, and that Truitt has told her to do whatever it takes. He angrily repeats that he is not the man they think he is and that he wants them to leave. The three searchers go, saying they'll come back. On their way home Catherine, who is strangely elated, buys a canary from a street vendor and takes it back to her hotel.

Part 2 - St. Louis, Winter, 1908 - Chapters 10, 11 and 12 Analysis

As the second part of the novel begins, the narrative shifts focus almost entirely to Catherine, a circumstance that on some level she is the book's primary protagonist. It's important to note, however, that simply because a character has more page time, more narrative attention paid to him or her, it doesn't necessarily mean that that character is a protagonist, or in this case the narrative's sole protagonist. There is, in fact, some question as to why the narrative spends so much time and detail exploring the relationship between Catherine and Antonio, particularly in the following section. It could be argued that such a relatively expansive amount of narrative time is necessary in order for the reader to get a full, complete sense of the depth and intensity of the two characters' feelings. On the other hand, it could also be argued that the portrayal of those feelings is somewhat repetitive and borderline indulgent.

In any case, it's interesting to note here some other interesting elements. First, there is the juxtaposition of Catherine's choices in clothing and demeanor with the extravagance of both Antonio's choices and the intensity of her feelings, not to mention the total lack of restraint Catherine displays in the following section. Then there is her deepening interest in the secret garden and in gardens in general. The first is a metaphoric representation of her deepening interest in her own passion and her own secrets. The second, Catherine's interest in gardens in general, on the other hand, can be seen as a symbolic foreshadowing of her gradually emerging interest in a new life, a new way of being that includes new growth in the garden, new growth in her, not only a new identity but the child she becomes pregnant with. This idea of connection between growth in the garden and growth in character is reiterated in the book's final chapter, Chapter 25, in which she vividly imagines such new growth returning to the garden in the same way as new growth is taking place inside her, both in the physical form of the child and in the spiritual form of self-respect.

Finally, there is the introduction of the canary, its impulsive, passionate, sensual color and appearance both foreshadowing and symbolically evoking the personal, sexual and emotional freedom that Catherine comes to experience first with Antonio and later with Truitt.

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