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In the story Say Yes by Tobias Wolff, a couples argument reveals a deeper question about their relationship. Why does Anne ask her husband a question, when she already knows the answer? She asks her husband, what she thought was an emotional question, hoping to trigger an emotional response. Instead, she received an answer with a more logical approach to the situation that may have lead her to realize her own insecurity about their relationship.
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The argument is the part of the story that reveals the question. Although the narrator claims that they just stumbled upon this subject, it appears that Anne wanted to put herself in such a situation. When the couple got on the topic of interracial marriages and the husband says, ” with all things considered it’s a bad idea,” (p.74) he left himself wide open for such a question. The wife just had to use that to her advantage, which she did. They exchanged their arguments, and it is obvious that she is going to ask such a question, when she gets cut. He tries to end the argument when he says he will finish the dishes, but she says, “That’s okay, I’ll dry” (p.75). By not leaving the topic alone the reader knows she has more in mind then just discussing interracial marriages.What did Anne really have in mind when she resumed the argument? She had started this argument, and was now to the point where her true motive was to surface. She asks, “Say that I’m black, but still me, and we fall in love. Will you marry me?” (p.76). This is the question that made the argument have significance. She did not care if he was racist or if he felt these marriages were a bad idea, she simply wanted to know the extent of his love for her. She wanted to know if one thing was different about her would he still love her. She knew he did not approve of interracial marriages, so she used that to test the limits of his love. She seemed to figure that if he really loved her like he claims, then he would of said something along the lines of yes I’ll marry you because there are no boundaries to our love. This can be compared to any person that has ever been in a relationship and asked the question, would you still love me if I were mangled in a car accident, or if I gained a hundred pounds. Humans have natural insecurities and trust issues that cause them to ask such questions. She was just acting on human nature.
The husband has his own view on the couple’s relationship, and the question that his wife asked. He thought of himself as a great husband, because he was so considerate. He was certain that he was a thoughtful man, but it seemed like he forced that on himself, so that if he ever did something wrong he could it use that to prove to himself he was a good husband. He also believes that he did not want anything in return, but after he came to her rescue with the Band-Aid, he thought, “It would be a nice gesture on her part not to start up that conversation again, as he was tired of it”(p.75). This shows that he is really not as considerate as he appears. The question on his part is, if he was as considerate a person would he not have spared her feelings by immediately answering yes when she asked him to marry her. It is not like she was every going to turn black, and he would be faced with that decision. It seems that his consideration for her feelings does truly exist.
The argument ends, and the wife goes to read a magazine. The husband is in the kitchen cleaning. He cleans it to the point where it “looks new, the way it looked when they were first shown the house, before they had ever lived here.” This implied that it was a start of renewal in their relationship. It seems that by doing this he is trying to take back what he had done, he was trying to start over. The husband then went outside to take out the garbage. While doing this he has a number of thoughts go through his head,
He felt ashamed that he had let his wife get him into
a fight. In another thirty years or so they would be
dead. What would all that stuff matter then? He thought
about the years that they had spent together, and how
close they were, and how well they knew each other. (p.77)
After these thoughts go through his mind he gets a warm tingly feeling inside. This is the point that he realizes that he was wrong about the whole situation. He seems to finally understand what she was asking.
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With his new found understanding he goes back in the house. He notices that she is in the bathroom and stands outside the door, and calls her name. He apologies to her, and says that he will make it up to her, but she wants to know “How?” This throws him off, not only because it was an unexpected response, but also her voice seems strange to him. This shows that she has changed, whether it is because she is hurt or she sees him differently after his answer. He then whispers into the door “I’ll marry you,” but her response is “We’ll see”(p.77). She then tells him to go to bed and turn off the lights. Then as he lies there he hears a movement across the room, but saw nothing.
He is heart pounded the way it had on their first night
together, the way it still did when he woke at a noise
in the darkness and waited to hear it again – the sound
of someone moving through the house, a stranger (p.78)
The husband refers to his wife as a stranger, but why? After he starts over by cleaning the kitchen, and then realizing his true feelings of love for her, he has gone through a transformation. He sees her as a stranger, because he is now a different person, which causes him to perceive things in a different way. This break through in their relationship will probably cause them to become closer to one another.
The couple’s argument reveals a deeper question about their relationship. The wife asked her husband a question that was intended for an emotional response, but received a more thought out approach to the predicament. Although the wife did not get the response she wanted right off the bat; she allowed her husband’s answer to fester in his mind, which indeed did end up giving her the answer that she wanted.
Relationships in general are complicated and always changing. Couples need to be in tuned with one another, and learn how to read each other’s actions. Just when someone thinks that they could not possible get know someone anymore they find out something surprisingly new about that person, which may or may not be a good thing.
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