“Europe” by Henry James is a short dark comedy story centered around the lives of the daughters of elderly Mrs. Rimmel. They live in Boston where they take care of their mother. The story implies a lot of puritanical stereotypes about the daughters, describing them as working so hard for their mother that they have aged and become just as worn out as she has.

 

After many years of care and hard work the daughters plan a trip to visit Europe just like their mother had at their age (although the girls are described to have aged terribly, making it a humorously futile attempt to relive their mothers ‘youth’). Before the girls have departed for their trip, their mother has a seizure and they are unable to leave. A comedic element that brilliantly rubs salt into the wounds are the narrator’s interventions to the storyline. The girls express excitement to the narrator for their trip, but when the girls are forced to remain in Boston the narrator takes two separate trips to Europe ‘waiting’ for them. After both vacations, the narrator returns with concern that the mother is robbing the daughters of their youth (obviously both figuratively and literally). The youngest daughter soon flees to Europe to enjoy herself, leaving with their family friends, the ‘Hathaways’.

 

The Hathaway’s return without the youngest daughter, who chose to remain in Europe. When the narrator visits Boston to inform Mrs. Rimmel and her remaining children, he notices that Becky has aged even further than Mrs. Rimmel. Mrs Rimmel has convinced herself that her youngest daughter has in fact died in Europe, a revelation that is shortly followed by the death of Becky—the older daughter. Mrs. Rimmel—who now appears to be dying herself—tells the narrator that Becky is in Europe, to which he agrees.


Levene, Mark, and Rosemary Sullivan. Short fiction: an anthology. Don Mills, Ont., Oxford University Press, 2003.