Chapter one

In this first section the narrator, who does not provide us with his/her name (sign, designation), give us some basic information about two of the three principal characters, Joe Trace and his wife Violet (who is fifty), while alluding to a third principal character, an eighteen-year old girl with whom Joe was having an affair and who he has killed. Note that at the end of this section the narrator mentions a second “scandalizing threesome” and a second murder that “turned out different.”

The narrator digresses, describing the City and providing hints about him/her.

  • What two precautions does the narrator take?
  • and why does the narrator not “come out” and “mix”?

The narrator returns to the present and to the photo on the mantelpiece. The eighteen-year-old is named (designated) by the narrator, and her face characterized in very different terms (complementary?) by Violet and Joe. The narrator also talks about Violet’s preoccupation with the murdered girl, her inability to rest, and her “cracks,” one of which the narrator spends much of the remaining chapter describing: the extraordinary theft that Violet has committed.

  • What details, two especially, does the narrator emphasize while describing the theft?

And note that very briefly (p.17) the narrator manages to mention three other characters: True Belle, Miss Vera Louise, and a “blond boy” with “carfully love hair”-one of whom will become very important in the second half of the story.


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