Short Story #15: The People Next Door by Pauline C. Smith

Title:  The People Next Door 

Author:  Pauline C. Smith

Short Story #15 out of 365

Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)

Book cover:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur

Date Read:1/7/2014
Source: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur.

Summary

After recovering from a nervous breakdown because of her supposed wild imagination, a wife and husband discuss the neighbors.  The husband wants her to make more friends and so the new couple next door seem like a good place to start.  However, over the course of several days, the wife observes strange events.  For days, the neighbor washes her husbands clothes and puts them out to hang, regularly muttering and grunting while aggressively hanging the shirts.  One day, the car of the neighbor's husband stops leaving the house, and then the neighbor gets two big dogs whom the wife notices are fed in the dark of night.  Eventually, the neighbor drives away with the car never to return.  Every time the wife begins to speculate about the nature of events, the husband hushes her and demands her to stop thinking bad thoughts for fear it will trigger another episode.

Reflection

In some ways, this reminds me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," particularly in the relationship between the husband and wife with his demands for her to stop thinking in certain ways (thus also giving insight as to how she might have had a breakdown in the first place).  It's curious in the ways that loved ones suppresses one another's thoughts and this story seems to emphasize that.  The couple we're introduced to seems to be ok as a couple but there are clear chips in their foundation. How long does the wife go on before she commits an act akin to what she suspects (but is suppressed by her husband to speak of) the neighbor of doing?  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.




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