“How Vainly Men Themselves Amaze” Interpretation

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I’m going to interpret a short story called «How vainly men themselves amaze». This is a story about a holiday affair turning into a love triangle between young Franklin, a married woman Mrs Palgrave and her German nursemaid Heidi. The plot of the story is not tangle. Eighteen years old high-school graduate Franklin being on holiday with his parents at French resort gets to know Mrs Palgrave, an auburn-haired woman about forty with mottled and stencilled green eyes. Gradually their acquaintance turns out to be a love affair.

Every afternoon they drive to a remote bay surrounded by rocks and pines to have a good time there taking pictures and enjoying themselves. The plot undergoes a drastic turn when Mrs Palgrave leaves Franklin for three days, going away to London. Having declared her that he would miss her badly, Franklin found that he hardly missed her at all. What seemed to be an impassioned love proved to be just an exhausting passion, to Franklin’s great surprise. In revulsion of sentiment he develops friendly relations with Heidi, a baby-sitter, who is looking after Mrs Palgrave’s children.

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One day he even invites her to a sea restaurant, where while having dinner takes notice how opposite she is from Mrs Palgrave. So, having already fallen out of his previous love he dares to kiss Heidi while driving back from the restaurant. The story finishes when Franklin finds out that Heidi was sent home by Mrs Palgrave, aссused of being too unreliable for a baby-sitter, “caught up in a cheap intrigue” by her words. The last time Franklin saw Mrs Palgrave was the next afternoon, when he came across her walking with her husband, a prim-looking man around sixty.

The story ends with Franklin’s words in a desperate voice, which were “Heidi, where can I find you? ”. By means of the story and its characters the author raises many issues. The first problem to point out is a marital infidelity, obviously shown by Mrs Palgrave behavior. Mr Palgrave, a silent conventional man, working all the time, doesn’t pay enough attention to his wife and this lets her amuse herself elsewhere. Let’s look at Mrs Palgrave appearance description.

She is a mature woman with smouldering auburn hair and beautiful golden-tanned body with a flat stomach. It’s useless to say that such woman wouldn’t spent her time falling into routine and doing household chores all days long. No wonder that she seeks for young boys for entertaining as her unfaithfulness is rather proved by her boredom. This leads me to another issue raised by the author, which could be defined as using people in selfish aims. Mrs Palgrave seduces young and innocent Franklin, cheats his naive feelings and hurts his trustful heart.

Being an unexperienced eighteen years old boy, Franklin couldn’t discern mercenary ends in Mrs Palgrave behavior, that’s why he regarded their affair as a romance. However a doubt about Mrs Palgrave’s feelings to Franklin is apparent. Returning to the episode of her departing for London, it’s noticeable that leaving Franklin she accuses him of flattering by making a confession to miss her. She tells him that it’s possible to get sick even of love and refers to a well-known saying “Out of sight out of mind”.

It certainly proves an insignificance of her feelings and consequently the selfishness of her aims. The story also brings up an issue of inner and outer beauty by opposing two main female characters: Heidi and Mrs Palgrave. I had already focused on Mrs Palgrave’s description, now let’s consider Heidi’s appearance and features of her nature. Judging by Franklin’s first impression, she had an aloof aristocratic, even supercilious air around her. Her hair was almost identical in color with the sand and her pale blue eyes were almost transparent.

However she smiled with an unexpected friendliness and laughed with amazing warm, and as getting more acquainted with her, Franklin realized that what was taken as superciliousness was a mere shyness and an uneasiness, related to Mrs Palgrave presence. While kissing Heidi Franklin compares her lips with a freshly unfolded petal. Indeed, comparing to Mrs Palgrave Heidi is a guiltless creature with a simple nature and unaffected manners, to some extent as innocent as Franklin himself.

Anyway, having loved Mrs Palgrave for her attractive appearance or Heidi for her sincere soul, Franklin failed in both cases and ultimately was left alone, all his suffering in vain. Such a desperate conclusion relates to a title of a story, which is a first line of a poem called “Thoughts in a Garden” written by Andrew Marvell. The poem is devoted to thoughts of an author, who praises the nature comparing it with company of men. “Society is all but rude To this delicious solitude”, writes he in the poem.

I admit that Franklin, his hopes disappointed, might think the same after all he had experienced. In conclusion, I want to express my opinion concerning the story. In modern world, where appearance is put above the moral qualities, where people often mutually use each other in selfish ends, unfaithfulness and betrayals are common and cruelness is everywhere, we still can try to be more attentive to one another’s feelings for the sake of making this world friendlier and there is no use to say that the story only proves it.

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“How Vainly Men Themselves Amaze” Interpretation. (2016, Dec 22). Retrieved from


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