‘The Shadow Of Kindness’ by Maeve Brennan

The Shadow Of Kindness by Maeve Brennan, 1965

The magic trick:

Contrasting the current marital strain with its previous happiness

We continue our week of Bagot Family stories from Maeve Brennan.

In today’s story, we learn that the strain on Mr. and Mrs. Bagot’s marriage is not merely lethargy. It dates back to the death of their infant son years earlier. It’s a sobering realization for the reader, and one that retroactively adds depth to the previous Bagot stories.

We then get a flashback to a day much earlier in the Bagots’ relationship. It’s a happy day. A simple memory. Nothing dramatic. But one that warms Mrs. Bagot’s heart as she recalls.

It’s sad, though, for the reader. The contrast between the flashback and the current state of their married life is stark.

And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

But when they got to the shop, he didn’t leave her. He stayed and watched while the man behind the counter showed her what they had in the way of cretonne. The man behind the counter gave Mrs. Bagot a chair, but Martin refused to sit down. “I feel like a bull in a china shop,” he said, “but at least I needn’t be a sitting bull.” They all laughed, and a woman standing nearby waiting for her parcel to be wrapped laughed and smiled at Mrs. Bagot, and the man behind the counter winked at Mrs. Bagot, and said, “That is a witty man you have there, Mrs. …” And she had said “Mrs. Bagot,” in such a high voice that Martin burst out laughing and had said to the man behind the counter, “She’s still surprised at her new name.”

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