The Astronomer's Wife

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Freud and “The Astronomer’s Wife” In Kay Boyle’s “The Astronomer’s Wife”, we are introduced to the titular character of Katherine Ames, a woman who is portrayed as confident in her role as a wife and as the head of her household. By the title of the story we know that Mr. Ames is an astronomer, a man of science who spends most of his time staring into the sky rather than being focused on his wife. It may also be inferred that due to the nature of his work Mr. Ames must work solely at night, therefore disregarding his sexual responsibility as a husband. Mrs. Ames finds a reprieve from the loneliness and sexual frustration she feels by dedicating herself to her role of wife. That is until she is presented with the outside influence of the Plumber, an incident which she uses to allow herself to fall into the daydreams of temptation and desire. This dichotomy between Mrs. Ames’ fantasies and her responsibilities as a wife, represent the very basic Freudian struggle of Mrs. Ames’ “Ego” and the concepts of the Id and the Superego, both clearly personified in the characters of the Plumber and the Astronomer, respectively. Freud’s concept of the Id, from the perspective of the Astronomer’s Wife, is best represented by the character of the Plumber because he most fulfills the definition as a “storehouse of desires, primarily libidinal or sexual” (DiYanni 1568-1569). Boyle focuses on strong sexual metaphors in her description of Mrs. Ames’ encounter with the Plumber to more clearly illustrate this point. For example, the imagery of neglected plumbing is often used as an allegory for a female’s lack of sexual fulfillment and attention, and Boyle utilizes this to great effect when discussing the Plumber’s intention of “going down” to check the condition of Mrs. Ames’ pipes. The metaphor creates a correlation in the mind of the reader as the Plumber being the solution
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