The Failings of Mr. And Mrs. Elliot

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The Failings of Mr. And Mrs. Elliot

This cynical look at a less than ideal marriage keeps the reader at a distance. The opening sentence startles in its baldness "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot tried very hard to have a baby" and the second sentence destroys any illusions that the Elliots are enjoying this by stating that "They tried as often as Mrs. Elliot could stand it"(Hemingway 85).

The second paragraph uses one long, oddly convoluted sentence to describe their courtship and subsequent marriage. It isn't until the third paragraph that either is referred to by a first name and then young Mr. Hubert Elliot's career is discussed. Mrs. Elliot's age has already been revealed, she is forty, and now Hubert's age is given as twenty five. This disparity in ages is explained by the fact that Hubert has been keeping "himself pure so that he could bring to his wife the same purity of mind and body that he expected of her"(85). The very thing that girls his age laugh at is what endears him to his friend at the tea shop, Cornelia.

She, too, is quite pure and they are delighted to have found each other, even if his mother cries over their marriage. Later she "brightened very much when she learned they were going to live abroad"(86). Perhaps she's relieved that the newlyweds will be out of reach of the wagging tongues of neighbors and friends.

The happy couple spends much time kissing and congratulating themselves on having remained pure. Apparently marriage wasn't in Hubert's plans, he can't even "remember just when it was decided that they were to be married"(86). But they do marry and the wedding night proves to be disappointing, the impression being that two such pure souls have no clue how to make love. A...

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...friends of her own, concentrating instead on making that baby and typing Hubert's poetry. There is also a tendency to accept at face value some things that would arouse suspicion in a more thoughtful (or less desparate) person. "Hubert explained to her that he had leaned that way of kissing from hearing a fellow tell a story once"(86).

It might be easy to feel sympathy for such deluded people, creating their own traps and convincing themselves that they are so very happy. But the slightly sarcastic edge of the narrative combined with the distance maintained throughout instead works to encourage contempt. At the end of the story it's easy to dismiss the Elliots as having made their bed. Now they'll just have to sleep in it.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. "Mr. and Mrs. Eliot." The Short Stories. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995.
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