‘A Glutton for Punishment’ by Richard Yates

Few writers capture the crushing pain and disillusionment that can accompany everyday life quite as well as Richard Yates, and this story illustrates it beautifully. Here we have a classic Yates protagonist, Walter Henderson, a rather unassuming young man who works in a Manhattan office in the heart of NYC. A graceful and gracious loser all his life, Walter is convinced he is about to be fired from his job, and in spite of his wife’s best efforts to make their home life as bearable as possible, the weight of this expectation hangs over Walter on a permanent basis. In writing this story, Yates exposes some of the anxieties of life, the sense of pride and respect we all crave from those around us. Moreover, it also highlights the different roles a woman was expected to play back in the late 1950s/early ‘60s, the various modes she had to adopt irrespective of how taxing or frustrating they proved to be. A period piece that still has some relevance today.

Collected in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Little, Brown and Co. 1962, currently available as a Vintage Classic

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