Larry is Mary’s dentist. A friend of Mary’s from childhood, he has never moved away. He is a gentle, quiet man, he is quite content with his life. In addition to his dental practice, he owns his own home and a truck. In contrast to Stephen, Larry is slow and relaxed. Although he is sensitive to Mary’s moods and wants to make her happy, he believes that he bores her. He tells Mary that he does not want her to go to Louisville, but wants her to remain in town.
Mary is the narrator of the story. As the story opens, she announces that she has taken a lover. It is revealed that Mary returned to Kentucky about three years before to take care of her sick parents. Since that time, she has married Stephen and her parents have moved to Florida.
Mary is uncertain what she wants in life. She thinks she wants to settle on the farm; however, the farm is for sale. Stephen, her husband, has gone to Louisville to find them a new home. While her husband is away, Mary begins an affair with her dentist, Larry. The affair leaves her paralyzed with inaction; should she pursue the dentist, or move to Louisville with her husband? As the story ends, she is still waiting for something to happen that will help her decide.
Stephen is Mary’s husband. He met Mary when he came to Kentucky to sell word processors. As the story opens, he is in Louisville, looking for a new house. He is a salesman, but he does not seem to be doing a very good job of selling Mary on their future together. Furthermore, he does not seem to understand Mary’s needs and desires, and often tells Mary how she should feel. Contending that her attachment to her family home is “provincial,” he urges her to be more “flexible.”
Ira Mark Milne (Editor), Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 8, Bobbie Ann Mason, Published by Thomson Gale, 2000.