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Metonymy, or the Husband's Revenge

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by

James Walton

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Metonymy, or the Husband's Revenge

Plot Structure
Exposition: The narrator's tale of how she discovered the meaning of metonymy.
Rising Action 1: Setting the scene of the involved characters; the sick man and the poor woman.
Rising Action 2: Describing the woman's disinterest in her husband, and her increasing attractiveness and energy.
Rising Action 3: The woman falls in love with a sergeant, and begins to cheat on her husband.
Rising Action 4: The husband discovers about his wife's affair after the sergeant was deployed far away, and begins to read his wife's love letters.
Climax: The man snaps, taking his revolver and shooting the mailman as he comes to deliver the mail.
Falling Action: The man tells the witnesses that they could call the police. He is taken to talk to the sheriff.
Resolution: He explains to the sheriff that he couldn't kill his wife (since she did so much for him), nor could he kill the sergeant (since he was afraid of him). However, the mailman was the one who delivered all those painful letters which he read. If it weren't for the letters, he would never have known about his wife's betrayal.
Conflicts
Conflict #1 - Man vs Man: The husband, in this story, feels at odds with the sergeant, and as we later find out, the mailman. These conflicts tie into the theme of metonymy. Although the man hates the sergeant for stealing his wife's love, he takes out his anger on the mailman for delivering the love letters which drove him mad.
Conflict #2 - Man vs Himself: The Man in the story fights a losing battle against his own hate and anger. Reading his wife's love letters becomes an obsession for him, to the point that he connects all of his sufferings to the letters themselves, rather than the one who wrote them or the one who received them. This conflict once again ties into the theme of metonymy; he blamed the mailman for delivering those accursed letters, rather than the one he should've blamed.
Conflict #3 - Man vs Society: The Man was fighting against his unfair and unjust predicament. Fighting internally with himself, he could not make himself harm his wife (as he loved her) or the sergeant that she fell in love with (as he was afraid of the consequences). In the end, he could not take out his anger on them, despite the fact that they were at fault.
Significance of the Title
The connection between the title and the story is fairly straight-forward in this instance. "Metonymy, or the Husband's Revenge" is a title that states the theme of the story (metonymy), as well as describing it's role within the story. The way it was worded implies that they are synonyms, or mean the same thing.
Point of View
The point of view in this story in first person; that is to say, it's written as if the reader is engaging in conversation with someone. Most of the story, however, is written in a very factual style. By this, I mean that the story doesn't feel very personalized. My telling a story without being omniscient and knowing the feelings and thoughts of each character, the author was able to convey a message without letting the emotion of the characters interfere and send differing messages.
Metonymy, or the Husband's Revenge
Summary
The story begins with the narrator telling a story about how she discovered the meaning of 'metonymy'. Afterwords, she tells another tale that does a good job of expressing another individual's view on metonymy. In this story, a sickly but rich man marries a poor woman and provides her with many things that help her become healthy and attractive. However, she soon becomes bored of life with the man and falls in love with a sergeant. She begins cheating on her husband, who only finds out about this affair after the sergeant is deployed far away. He begins to read her mail, which often contains the love letters sent from the sergeant. Over time, he becomes increasingly miserable, until he eventually snaps. Taking a revolved, he goes out to meet-not his wife, nor the sergeant whom she loves, but the mailman who delivered the letters which caused him so much pain.

Themes
The primary theme of this short story is based around the definition of metonymy, and how we often use it subconsciously within our own lives.
I believe that an important medium used by the author to develop this theme was the conflict between the man, his wife, and the sergeant. The man still loved his wife, so he couldn't take his anger out on her. He also feared the sergeant, so he didn't dare try and harm him. Instead, he blamed the mailman, who was not the cause of his suffering, but was the medium that brought it to him.
I also think that foreshadowing was a prominent literary device used by the author. At the beginning of the story, the narrator tells us about the meaning of metonymy and gives some examples of it. This helps to set our expectations for what will come of the rest of the story.
Finally, I think that situational irony is used when we find out that the man has killed the mailman, rather than his wife or the sergeant. This action was not at all expected, which helped it to stick out and be memorable.
Characters
The main character in this story is known only as 'the man'. He is a sickly, weak, and 'boring' (according to his wife's point of view) individual. As the narrator puts it, "He was not old but spent, which is worse than being old." (Page 2) He is a man with many disabilities and medical issues, which prevents him from doing many things that a healthy man may be able to do. He himself seems to be aware of this factor, since he chooses a wife that is poor and average-looking so that he could trust her not to leave him.

Echo
"Metonymy, or the Husband's Revenge", Rachel de Queiroz
Full transcript