Sherm had had a bit of Mrs. Bain’s compulsion trouble

AlexanderIII

Senior Member
Russian
Dear all,
this from the story 'The Game' by Dorothy Parker (1948). Several guests and the hosts are playing something like Charades. A player must pantomime a line of verses, dramatic play, song etc that is chosen beforehand by the rival team and put down on a piece of paper. Sherm[an], one of the guests, cannot do without drinking. As the competition demands a sober head he is likely to cause irritation of his team-mates.

They went into the other room where the opposing team awaited them, looking patient. Their group too had had certain difficulties in making their selections. Sherm had had a bit of Mrs. Bain’s compulsion trouble.

Sherm suffered of Mrs. Bain’s dominant, power-loving character.
Is this interpretation correct?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't know, Alexander. What have we been told about Mrs Bain's character at this point in the story?
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I don't know, Alexander. What have we been told about Mrs Bain's character at this point in the story?
    Nothing in particular. Neutral things. She does not look too commanding in general. Talking to Mrs. McDermott they both in fact tell the reader about protagonists of the story, Bob and Emmy.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Google tells me (I can't access this page of the story) that at some point Mrs Bain says "It's terrible ... Whenever something awful's happened in a family, I just can't seem to stay off the subject. It's as if something was making me do it."

    That looks like "compulsion trouble". But you will know better than I do;).
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Google tells me (I can't access this page of the story)
    Neither can I today. A couple of days ago everything was all right.

    At some point Mrs Bain says "It's terrible ... Whenever something awful's happened in a family, I just can't seem to stay off the subject. It's as if something was making me do it."

    That looks like "compulsion trouble". But you will know better than I do;).
    Probably you are right, Loob. But it seems hardly probable she could discuss awful things that happened to Bob's former wife (who drowned) with a drunken Sherm. The words in question seem to imply just this.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    If we're right about what Mrs Bain's "compulsion trouble" was, then the idea of Sherm had had a bit of Mrs. Bain’s compulsion trouble would be that he, too, had the urge to talk about things that were awful in some way: embarrassing, or shameful, or hurtful. Did he?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think that probably Sherm's compulsion was similar to Mrs Bain's, but was being exercised independently. (Great minds think alike.) They seem to be on opposing sides in this game, from what I could see in the link.

    As far as I can see, they all know about the first wife who drowned, and while searching for suitable titles for their charade-style game, they keep coming up with titles that would recall the tragic incident in some way.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'm not sure I've got the details right, Loob. There's a lot of conversation going on at that point, and I haven't yet worked out who is who. I think I may have the gist though.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Yes, Loob, Velisarius and Kirusha, you are right. I think I understand it now. The next sentence gives the clue -- the name of the drowned woman was Alice.

    Sherm had had a bit of Mrs. Bain’s compulsion trouble. He had urged that they choose the song “Don’t You Remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?” and sought to advance his cause by singing it over and over.

    Thank you PaulQ, Loob, Velisarius and Kirusha.
     
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