"An Interest in Life" by Grace Paley

I don’t know what to say about this story!! I thought about it, I read criticism about Grace Paley’s work—I could not find any criticism about this story specifically—and I still don’t know what to say.

What I learned about Paley’s work through the criticism:

  1. She uses various New York dialects, particularly Yiddish, that she heard in her youth to create a distinctive voice for her characters.
  2. “Paley’s stories portray women struggling to raise their families alone or trying to regain their balance after a failed love relationship.”
  3. “As Paley’s fiction has developed, she has shown an increasing interest in the nature of fiction itself and its relationship to the life of the reader.”

From this story, I can say yes, yes, and no.

The story was irritating on the whole. The main character, Virginia, is frustrated at the beginning of the story by her husband giving her a broom and leaving her to join the army. And rightly so. But Virginia seems to agree with her husband’s decision once her anger subsides a little. Her husband becomes disgusted when she becomes pregnant with their fourth child, saying “Oh, you make me so sick, you’re so goddamn big and fat, you look like a goddamn brownstone….All you ever think about is making babies.” And Virginia blames her “own foolishness for four children when I’m twenty-six years old, deserted, and poverty struck, regardless of looks. A man can’t help it, but I could have behaved better.” She becomes involved with John Raftery, who, while married, comes pretty close to being an ideal man. However, at the end of the story Virginia fantasizes about her husband reappearing at home and their….doing dirty things on the kitchen floor.

I…. Sh…. He…. Er….why?