In the 'Astronomer's Wife' by Kay Boyle, something as simple as a conversation with
a plumber about a stopped elbow is enough to trigger an awakening in Mrs. Katherine Ames.
When Mrs. Ames realized that the plumber was talking about something she understood (the
stopped elbow), she realized that her marital problems were not the result of a division betwwen
the sexes; instead, she realized that some men, like the plumber, are as practical as she is, and
that some other men, like her husband, scorn people like her because they are intellectually
inclined. Previous to this discovery, Katherine did not realize that there were different kinds of men, and
therefore she did not realize that she and her husband were mismatched. Furthermore, in
her awakening, Mrs. Ames also discovers that she, like the plumber, occupies as valuable a
place in society as the astronomer, for she does the 'dirty' work to free people like her husband
to have time to think and to discover.
The scene in question takes place after Mrs. Ames has already noticed that the plumber
has a few physical characteristics that match her own (such as blond hair), and she is talking
to him as he descends into the earth. The scene begins immediately after the plumber says
'I think something has stopped the elbow', because this phrase was one of the few things that a
man has ever said that Mrs. Ames has understood. After the plumber has descended into the ground before the scene,
Mrs. Ames is the only one left. She spends the entire duration of this scene sitting on
the grass, silently thinking and revealing her thoughts to the audience.
During her course of thinking, Mrs. Ames makes the important discovery that there is a
whole race of...