Proulx, E. Annie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa
  • Date of entry: Oct-21-1996


A widower, Perley, marries Maureen, a woman four years younger than his daughter. Not long after they are married, Maureen, in cahoots with her brother, begins to emotionally and physically abuse her husband, taking over his land and farm. Perley feels he "deserved what was happening" and cannot fight back. Finally, he does strike out at Maureen’s brother, leaves him unconscious in the kitchen and goes to spend the night in the hayloft. There, he thinks back to his first encounters with Maureen and her brother when they were children, reflecting on the abuse and poverty that dominated their lives and that led, ultimately, to the present crisis.


An interesting story on a number of levels, but particularly in the reversal of the typical domestic violence roles: here the woman is the abuser. However, Proulx makes clear what brought her to this place. The story touches also on the heart-wrenching consequences of childhood poverty and abuse.

Primary Source

Heartsongs and Other Stories


Simon & Schuster: Scribner Paperback Fiction

Place Published

New York