Short Story #263: Pygmalion by John Updike

Title:  Pygmalion 

Author:  John Updike


Painting of John Updike.  Source:
The husband likes the impersonations that his first wife did of other people they encountered.  He even appreciated the impersonation of Gwen, his current mistress by his wife.  He is fond of Gwen because she was quite lively in bed.  His first wife  typically would asked to have her back rubbed and promptly fall asleep.  Soon, the husband divorces the first wife and moves onto Gwen.  Initially, the husband has trouble eliciting responses from Gwen about people they encounter that are anything but pleasant. He tries to encourage a stream of thought that includes criticizing these people but Gwen is more interested in having sex at the end of evening, even though the husband warns that it is light.  However, Gwen begins to impersonate more after they meet the new husband of the ex-wife.  She continues to do this and he enjoys it more and more, until their nightly routine becomes her impersonations followed by him giving her backrubs and falling asleep. 


The title hints at the resolution, which is that the husband continues to try to make his women into what he believes he wants, but often loses interest while the women simultaneously lose a bit of themselves as they are physically and mentally molded into what the husband wants.  

Short Story #263 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  8/1/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

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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