Although readers do not get many details about Marion’s life, Rebecca suggests that her mother experienced the same kind of discontentment as does she. When she buys the devil postcard, Rebecca implies that Marion lived vicariously though her daughter’s travels, ones that she, as a married woman during the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, could not enjoy. The suffering her mother endured causes her daughter twice to declare, “Poor Marion.” Ironically, Rebecca experiences the same sense of meaninglessness even though she suffers none of the conventional restrictions that her mother faced. Rebecca appears to have the upper hand in her marriage when she convinces Tom that the time is right to have a baby and that Paris is the perfect setting in which to become pregnant. She also has been able to convince him to leave his home in California and relocate to the East Coast. Walbert suggests that Rebecca’s freedom prevents her from finding fulfillment. Because she is able to take off for Paris on a whim, or perhaps to Italy or Greece, she imagines that each locale promises her the exciting, adventurous life that eludes her at home. When her fantasies are dispelled, she is compelled to invent another dream of another place where she may attain happiness. The longing and pursuit of something that resides elsewhere contributes to her dissatisfaction with the immediate. Ironically, Rebecca envisions that her life will be fulfilled not necessarily by hopping from one location to another, but through motherhood, a conventional role for a woman. Yet she expresses uncertainty about whether it is the right time to have a baby. This indecision, coupled with her inability to find satisfaction through her travels, suggests that Rebecca will not find the sense of meaning she seeks.
Connection and Disconnection
Ironically, Rebecca appears to be more connected to her dead mother than to her husband. When her mother was alive, she communicated to Rebecca her desire to travel to other countries and experience exciting, romantic adventures. This connection remains strong as shown by Rebecca’s buying a postcard that she thinks her mother would like and imagining her wearing her green coat sitting in outdoor cafés and meeting dashing Frenchmen. Rebecca tries to live the life her mother envisioned not only to find personal fulfillment but to compensate for her mother’s lack of freedom. Though written in third person point of view, the story is seen from Rebecca’s perspective; readers do not have access to Tom’s private thoughts.
He does not discuss them with Rebecca, and he acquiesces to her. Yet he has been unable to help her find fulfillment because she has not been able to articulate clearly the connection she has with her mother and what effect that has had on her life. Dependable, pliable Tom is not a part of her romantic fantasies other than his ability to impregnate her. By the end of the story, she withdraws from him into her vision of motherhood, which includes her mother and her child but not Tom.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Kate Walbert, Published by Gale Group, 2006