A Reliable Wife - Study Guide Part 3 - Wisconsin, Winter into Spring, 1908 - Chapters 21 and 22 Summary & Analysis

Robert Goolrick
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 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 3 - Wisconsin, Winter into Spring, 1908 - Chapters 21 and 22 Summary

Chapter 21: After Antonio arrives, he moves into his own room in the Italian house some distance from the room shared by Truitt and Catherine. Aware that he is watching them Truitt and Catherine, in turn, become more quietly intimate. One night, Truitt confesses that Antonio reminds him of Emilia, and tells Catherine about the end of Emilia's life - how she moved to Chicago with the piano teacher (Moretti), refusing to get a divorce because she was Catholic ... how Moretti left her ... how Truitt sent her money ... how she refused to have anything to do with Antonio. Over the years, Truitt says, he heard stories of her many affairs, her drug use, her drinking, her being robbed, and finally her getting tuberculosis. In a last effort to get her to change, he says, he went to Chicago with Antonio to see her and, leaving Antonio outside, discovered her close to death and that she had dumped all her old dresses, her unpaid bills, dirty dishes, even unopened letters from Antonio, all into one cluttered room. With that, he says, he realized he could no longer even think about trying to help her, and simply abandoned her. A few months later, he says, she died. When Catherine tries to assure him he did the right thing, he angrily tells her that he acted out of a desire for revenge on his mother, and for all the tortures she put him through. He then goes to sleep, assuring Catherine that now Antonio has arrived, they will make it work. Catherine, for her part, realizes that Antonio lied to her about what happened between his father and mother, and also realizes that things have changed for her. As the days pass, as winter becomes spring, and as Antonio's behavior becomes more and more self-indulgent and rebellious, Truitt tells Catherine that Antonio is behaving the way he did at his age. He also persists in his efforts to interest Antonio in the business in spite of Antonio's evident disinterest, outright contempt, and constant complaining. When Truitt goes into town on business, Antonio continually reminds Catherine of her arrangement and of his threat (i.e. to tell Truitt of their history) in spite of Catherine insisting that the agreement is no longer valid. Truitt continues to improve, Antonio becomes more difficult, and Catherine wonders how she's going to get out of this situation, at the same time fully aware of her pregnancy, and that the child is Truitt's.

Chapter 22: Antonio continues to indulge himself with a new horse, a new car, and a new woman, tiring of all of them quickly. He continues to insist to Catherine that she follow through on their plan, even as Truitt is becoming physically stronger, more sure of his relationship with Catherine and more active in business. The household staff is increasing in numbers, the house itself is redecorated, Catherine and Truitt get themselves new clothes, and spring becomes more and more evident. Antonio develops a relationship with a young widow in town , Violet Alverson, in spite of Truitt's urgings to leave her in piece. Mrs. Alverson comes to dinner one night and makes a good impression on Truitt and Catherine. The next day, however, Antonio writes her a letter in which he refuses to see her anymore. The day after that she kills herself, her baby left behind. Catherine and Truitt attend the funeral. Antonio stays home and plays the piano.

Part 3 - Wisconsin, Winter into Spring, 1908 - Chapters 21 and 22 Analysis

The most interesting point to note about this section is the contrast between Truitt's relationship with Catherine and his relationship with Antonio, the former clearly becoming more rewarding and fulfilling than either ever imagined, the latter proving more challenging. On another level, the relationship between Truitt and Catherine can be seen as putting the past in the past, with the characters getting over, at least to some degree, their painful histories. They both have a certain distance to go, certainly, but they are moving forward more clearly and more gracefully than Antonio who, by contrast, seems powerfully and painfully stuck in HIS past. His treatment of the unfortunate Violet Alverson is a manifestation of how his self-hatred also becomes outwardly directed, in the way that Catherine's once did (i.e. manifesting in her desire to take advantage of, and eventually kill, Truitt). Meanwhile, the description of the discarded, decaying past cluttered together in Emilia's spare room can be seen as evoking the painful pasts of all the characters. The story of her death not only portrays the suffering that awaits if that past is not dealt with (as Catherine and Truitt are both doing), but also foreshadows the death that awaits Antonio who like his mother, also wallows not only in the past, but in corrupted dreams of an indulgent and irresponsible, yet fear-ridden future.

Finally, and as previously discussed, the weather can be seen as a reflection of the internal experiences and/or situations of the characters.

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