Reviewing a Scene 2: The Gabriels at Home

The other day, I wrote about a scene in The Witches of Eastwick where our three wicked ladies are seduced by a devilish new man in town. Read that here. Today, is a follow-up with what is the best scene in the novel so far. And it doesn’t include the leads.

The scene that closes out Part 2 of this novel involves a conventional middle class family, the Gabriels. The wife has taken a turn for the extreme, antagonizing everyone including her husband in the spirit of making the world a better place. His response? He brains her (what a great verb) with a poker, finishes off the job on her limp body, then methodically plans and executes his own suicide, keeping in mind certain limitations of his imperfect home (will the staircase spindles support his weight once he tightens the noose and drops from the second floor? Damn architects!). In a book full of description of what might be, was, or might have been, this is an excellent and succinct short story. It captures a whole kind of life: the prison of the bourgeois American middle class of the 1960s, the men and women who believed if they only worked a little harder, tried a little longer, then tomorrow would be not only a better day, but the greatest day, the day they had dreamt of since they first (metaphorically, of course) punched a timecard.

Best paragraph from this scene, following the murder and preceding the suicide:

Clyde had the sensation of there being several of   him, like ghost images on TV. This time of night he, in a parade of such ghost images, would mount the stairs. The stairs. the limp dry old rope still dangled in his hand. Its cobwebs had come off on his corduroy trousers. Lord give me strength.

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