A Harlem Tragedy (Henry)

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A Harlem Tragedy
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «The Trimmed Lamp»
Microsummary: A woman envied her friend's tumultuous relationship and provoked her own husband to hit her, but instead, he ended up doing the housework she had been complaining about.

Mrs. Fink visited her friend Mrs. Cassidy, who proudly showed off her bruises from her husband Jack's beatings. Mrs. Cassidy claimed that she wouldn't have a man who didn't beat her at least once a week, as it showed he cared for her.

Mrs. Cassidy — Mrs. Fink's friend; battered but happy wife; proud of her husband's violent outbursts; loyal, content.

I wouldn’t have a man that didn’t beat me up at least once a week. Shows he thinks something of you.

Mrs. Fink, on the other hand, said her husband Martin never raised his hand against her and was a gentleman.

Mrs. Fink — a discontented wife; envious of her friend's relationship; impulsive, jealous.

Mrs. Cassidy laughed and said that Mrs. Fink was just jealous because her husband was too passive and uninteresting.

He just sits down and practises physical culture with a newspaper when he comes home — now ain’t that the truth?

One day, Mrs. Fink decided to provoke her husband into hitting her, just to prove that he cared for her as much as Jack cared for Mrs. Cassidy. She insulted him and even hit him, but instead of hitting her back, Martin started doing the laundry, which was Mrs. Fink's chore. Mrs. Fink was devastated and confided in Mrs. Cassidy, who promised to keep her secret.

Mr. Fink — Mrs. Fink's husband; passive, unemotional, domesticated; prefers reading newspapers to engaging with his wife.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cassidy continued to beat his wife, but also showered her with gifts and affection.

Mr. Cassidy — Mrs. Cassidy's husband; violent when drunk but loving and generous when sober; impulsive, passionate.

Mrs. Fink envied their passionate relationship and wished her husband would show some sign of caring for her, even if it meant hitting her. However, Martin remained passive and uninterested, leaving Mrs. Fink feeling unloved and unimportant.

He never touched me, and — oh, Gawd — he’s washin’ the clothes — he’s washin’ the clothes!

In the end, Mrs. Fink realized that her husband's lack of aggression was not a sign of his lack of love for her, but rather a reflection of his passive nature. She learned to accept him for who he was and found happiness in their peaceful, if somewhat uneventful, life together.