‘The Invalid, Or The Bedridden’ by Patricia Highsmith

The Invalid, Or The Bedridden by Patricia Highsmith, 1975

The magic trick:

A thoroughly depressing happy ending

Many of the stories in Highsmith’s Little Tales Of Misogyny can thrill with their casual meanness. Its relentless misanthropy is fun, somehow. I did not get such a kick out “The Invalid,” however. Sometimes the stories just make you sad. This one skewers traditional bourgeois marital roles, and unhappiness rules the day. Ironically, the story has a happy ending – for Philippe at least. But I’ve never read a story that ends with one of its main characters happy and on the upswing and leaves the reader feeling so depressed. And that’s quite a trick on Highsmith’s part.

The selection:

… The doctors couldn’t find anything, nobody could see anything wrong with her back, but still it hurt, she said. Actually, she was no sure she would get her man unless she pretended an injury, and one acquired when she had been with him. Philippe, however, was quite in love with her, and she need not have worried so much. Still, hooking Phillipe very firmly, plus ensuring a life of leisure – not to say flat on her back in bed, or however she chose to lie comfortably, for the rest of her life – was no small gain. It was a big one. How many other women could capture a man for life, give him nothing at all, not even bother to cook his meals, and still be supported in rather fine style?

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