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In Richard Bausch’s “Someone to Watch Over Me”, a marriage unfolded during a couples one-year wedding anniversary at an upscale restaurant.

I don’t think I ever had anybody put the napkin in my lap until I married you. Isn’t that strange? A whole aspect of eating out, and I’d completely miss it. Can’t get service like that at the Red Lobster.”

Marlee’s much older husband, Ted, was treating her to a nice dinner in celebration of their wedding anniversary, but instead of being appreciative of the gesture, she spent the evening mocking the pretentious restaurant and its atmosphere.  Her taunting insults toward her husband began in a teasing manner, but the incessant nagging  became unbearable for Ted.

Bausch was continuously building anxiety for the reader as their conversation went on, and her ceaseless complaining was overbearing, not only for Ted but for the reader.

“I’m beginning to wonder if I have the energy for it all the time,” he says. “Marlee, you don’t realize all the demands–the–all the things you require from a person–I don’t know if I can keep it up.”

Not until the sixteenth page does Bausch inform the reader that Ted was not only growing tired of Marlee’s behavior at the restaurant but of her behavior in general.  Suddenly, Marlee’s emotions changed, and she came to realize that her relationship was coming to an end.

She thinks of Tillie, out in the world, somewhere under this very moon, living her interesting and glamourous life with all its happy choices and all the long friendships and associations, and then she wonders what Ted will say or do when he comes from the restaurant.

The mentions of Tillie, Ted’s ex-wife, was not an unimportant aspect of the story.  Marlee was jealous of her lifestyle, although she denied it, and even more jealous of her freedom.  Bausch took this scene of hostility between a husband and wife and built a deeper conflict from the moment at hand.  Bausch shifted the conflict and emotional state of the characters within a simple dinner.  At the end, it was unclear whether Marlee actually wanted someone to watch over her, since she relentlessly denied the security her husband was offering her.

 

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