Kay Boyle’s story, “Astronomer’s Wife”, is about a couple who are constantly not on good terms with one another. The woman named, Mrs. Aimes, is the protagonist in this story. ‘‘Astronomer’s Wife’’ begins with Mrs. Katherine Ames waking up in her house, and she calls for the ‘‘girl,’’ her maidservant, to bring her some coffee. She then begins to think about her husband, who is the astronomer. “That man might be each time the new arching wave, and woman the undertow that sucked him back, were the things she had been told by his silence were so.
She really sees him as aloof and notices that he is interested in nonfigurative things. Her thoughts are suddenly interrupted as her maidservant informs her that the plumber has arrived at the house. Mrs. Aimes leads the plumber to a room that has flooded, and at the same time, hinting to the plumber that she and her husband are recent arrivals to this house. The plumber examines the flooded room and remarks that he is sure the ‘‘soil line’’ is responsible for the plugged drain.
As the plumber leaves to go outside and look at the pipes, the astronomer makes his first and only appearance in this story. He remains lying in his bed while yelling at his wife that ‘‘There’s a problem worthy of your mettle! ’’ Mrs. Ames and the plumber continue to walk outside where the plumber realizes that the drains are ‘‘big enough for a man to stand upright in them. ’’ However, Mrs. Ames is not paying attention because she is thinking about her husband’s thoughts and how his remarks that he says to her makes her sad and make her wish that he would just keep silent.
She finally came to the realization that her and her husband were mismatched and that there are actually people like her, such as the plumber, other than people like her husband who like to scorn others. At this moment, Mrs. Ames looks at the plumber and notices that he is looking ‘‘up into her face. ’’ She notices particular physical characteristics about him, such as his hair ‘‘Mrs. Ames saw a bright little piece of his hair still shining, like a star, long after the rest of him had gone. ’
He suggests that the astronomer might want to go down into the drain with him. Mrs. Ames begins to think about the difference between men who descend, like the plumber, and men who go up, like her husband. Everything about the plumber becomes appealing to her, and she continues to think about how her husband dissatisfies her. She realizes that these two men are from two different walks of life, and as the story ends, she steps into the drainpipe with the plumber.