The Cut-glass Bowl and Other Stories

Before the Holidays, we discussed Francis Scott Fitzgerald and the Great American Depression on SparkNotes and the The Cut-Glass Bowl short story.

The Cut-Glass Bowl
A wedding present becomes a real curse for a former heart-breaker, a pretty and superficial woman, Evelyn Piper. In a dramatic way, we attend the decay and fall of a former beauty’s happiness, beauty and family. Her daughter loses a hand, her husband is ruined and estranged, her son dies at war…and she ends up dying while trying to get rid of the cumbersome present.

It’s the story of a couple, the Pipers, who'(have)ve been married for seven years when the story begins.

Mrs. Fairbolt pays a visit to her friend Mrs Piper and notices the Cut Glass Bowl (bol en cristal ciselé) .

Mrs Piper then explains that it was a wedding present which has a peculiar story.

A former boyfriend of Mrs Piper’s gave her this present and compared her with the cut-glass bowl: « Beautiful and empty and easy to see through, just like you ».

Yet, she accepted the present and even put it in the middle of her dining lounge…This could be the beginning of the curious charm operated by the bowl on the Pipers….


We discover that this very pretty but rather superficial housewife was cheating on her husband. The bowl caused the lovers to be discovered and brought the love story to an end.


A few years have gone by and time has taken its toll on Mrs Piper’s beauty. After a dinner party when they had used the bowl, Julie, the Piper’s daughter hurt her hand. Meanwhile her parents are arguing about Mr Piper’s getting drunk. In fact he’s explaining that his business is in big trouble and that he’s going to have to merge with Milton’s company in order to get back his cashflow. He insists on having another party in order to invite Clarence Ahearn. They are going to use the cut-glass bowl to make a big punch. The party turns out terribly bad. Guests quarrel. In the meantime, they don’t pay much attention to their children, especially Julie who got really sick. She is so bad that she reaches the point when the blood poisoning makes it impossible to save her hand and the doctors have to remove it. Julie will never be the same anymore. She’s sad and lives secluded in the house, refusing to mix with other people.


Mrs Piper is now 45 and bitter as her couple is a thing of the past. She’s no longer pretty at all.

The Pipers’ son, Donald went to war and a brown letter NEAR the cut glass bowl gives Mrs Piper the intuition that her son has passed away.


Evylyn wants now to get rid of this evil bowl and the whole world seems to blur. When she gets her spirit back, she decides to be « quick and strong » and wants to through the bowl away, but somehow, the bowl and herself are inseparable and she ends up throwing herself with the bowl in a very spectacular lightening show….

Answers to Questions p. 67

  1. He gave it to them as a wedding-present and as a reminder of Mrs Piper’s personality.
  2. She wanted to break-up with Fred because she was still in love with her husband and that she loved Harold.
  3. He came to make peace with his wife but as Fred was hiding in his dining room he became mad at Evylyn’s.
  4. He was the owner of a new hardware business and he merged with Piper brothers so this was an opportunity to introduce him to the Pipers’ family and friends.
  5. Because her daughter had fever after hurting her thumb on the cut-glass bowl and her mother was worried about her.
  6. She had a blood-poisoning and her hand had to be removed. She was never the same afterwards.
  7. The letter was from the War Department to let the Pipers know that their son had died in the war.
  8. She felt that the bowl had destroyed her whole life and happiness. It took away everything that counted in her life.
  9. She fell from the stairs with the bowl and died.

Wednesday January 7th, Bernice Bobs her Hair.

Check these links for the background stories: Wikipedia

The full novel transcript (unsimplified) thanks to the University of South Carolina

The filmed version discussed on the U. of Liverpool site

A song was even produced…check this out on the Divine Comedy Site

More to be found at


The young and innocent Bernice comes from a small town where her family belongs to the most respectable and richest. She’s not all that popular but until now she assumed it was out of respect for her family and background.
On a visit to her cousin, the beautiful and charming Marjorie Harvey, she discovers that in fact people think she’s a bore. Her cousin gives her an advice, to bob her hair, a revolution in those days. Bernice takes the lesson at heart and start teasing everyone, letting them think she’s really bob her hair until her cousin forces her to actually perform this “crime”. ..She had become a bit too popular to Marjorie’s taste. Bernice will take a cruel revenge by cutting her cousin’s braids and running away.


witty =clever=smart (spirituelle, intelligente), although (bien que), shoulder (épaule), to whisper (chuchoter), beside (à coté de), fan (éventail), to sigh (soupirer), to nod (hocher la tête), to stare (regarder fixement), to disappoint (décevoir), clumsy (maladroit), to call (rendre visite= to pay a call)


witty, to sigh, boring, to whisper, sharply, hopeless, unkind, selfish, pretty, grateful, surprise, unpinned hair, hard, sharply


  1. He was crazy about Bernice’s cousin, Marjorie Harvey;
  2. She didn’t love him. For her, it was just a friend to make other boys jealous of him and fight for her;
  3. Because she wasn’t fun and if he danced with her, he’d be stuck with her for the entire evening as no one would cut on him!
  4. She thought she was popular because she came from one of Eau-Claire’s best and richest family. She thought that the fact that boys didn’t cut in was sign of respect for her.
  5. She meant that although she was pretty, she was such a bore that she ruined the fun of the parties she attended.
  6. a- She must make herself attractive, look as good as possible, be perfect and especially charm them with her eyes-
    b. She should dance well, bending a little over her partner and not remain too rigid and straight :”you should lean on a man” (p. 22 l.5-6);
  7. these are unpopular boys on whom girls can practice their charming effects.
  8. The fact that she teased people about bobbing her hair attracted everyone’s attention.
  9. She wanted to force Bernice to accomplish what she had announced she would do.
  10. She felt cornered and miserable.
  11. They pitied her stupidity and ugliness. They looked upon her with contempt.
  12. She pretended that everyone would forget the whole thing….and while she was saying this, she showed off her own beautiful long hair.
  13. She cut her cousin’s braids and threw them on the threshold of Warren’s home.
  14. She wanted to take her revenge on the cruelty Marjorie had manifested toward her. She now realized how badly she had been betrayed by someone she took for her friend.

Wednesday February 4th

Gretchen’s 40 winks.


A young publicist, Roger Halsey tells his wife that he’s going to have to work very hard for six weeks in order to get one of the biggest advertising accounts in the country.

His young wife, Gretchen isn’t happy because she’s afraid that he’s going to have a burn-out. Meanwhile, one of their friends, George Tompkins, an interior designer, explains his healthy way of life and takes care of Gretchen while her husband works hard.

Festivals pass and Roger keeps working but one day he quarrels with George over his way of working too hard. He forbids his wife to go out with George and drugs her with a sleeping powder (he also makes sure that even if she wakes up, she’s not going to be able to call anyone nor go out as he cut the phone line and took away her shoes).

When Gretchen wakes up from what she thinks was a small nap, her husband has won the coveted contracts and it’s actually George who had the nervous breakdown!

According to B., this is a transcript of Sleeping Beauty’s fairy tale.

Exercises p. 68

  1. He said that for the next six weeks, he wouldn’t come home often as he had to complete an important work;
  2. She was unhappy because her husband had already worked hard for the past six months and he didn’t have any time to devote to her;
  3. George’s balanced life consisted in “working a little playing a little” and practising some sport (p. 32-33);
  4. He invited her to have a short nap….;
  5. cf. p. 34 first paragraph;
  6. She was out all the time with George, having fun and being entertained by him;
  7. He was the owner of Garrod shoes and the man who had the future of George’s in his hands…because if Roger won the contract, he would be a rich man with a stable income.
  8. George criticised Roger’s unhealthy work rhythm and Roger told George that his work was useless.
  9. Because Roger insulted her only friend…The one she liked so much that she had put his picture on her bedside table….!
  10. He bought a sleeping powder, gave the coffee containing the powder to his wife and once she had finished drinking it, she immediately fell asleep. Therefore, Roger could concentrate on his work without being worried about his wife’s whereabouts.
  11. He congratulated Roger for his excellent work and confirmed that he wanted him to manage his advertising campaign;
  12. by reading the date on the newspaper;
  13. a) he had had a nervous breakdown; b) She just needed a little rest; c) He’s never looked better in his life;
  14. He is mocking George.


Dolores, the maid

George the movie Star

Jule, George’s best friend

Kay, George’s wife

Helen Avery, a female movie-star


Margaret Donovan, George’s script

Pete Schroeder, the movie producer.

Arthur Busch, a movie studio director and a good friend of Kay’s

1st place:

Hannaford’s street and Hannaford’s house. It’s almost like a

2nd place

Jule’s place

3d place


4th place

Schroeder’s office

5th place

Back home with Kay.

6th place

Holywood party

7th place



Back home

9th place

to Santa Mo


Dolores watching with admiration George.

George accepts to sign some documents which are presented by Margaret.

He goes into Schroeder’s office and a girl on the phone tells him that they’ve had an affair together. George says it happens all the time. Men pretend they are him and girls believe them.

Then they meet George’s partner, Helen, with whom George is thinking of having an affair with.

Then he realizes that his marriage is more important than his relationships.

Back home, George quarrels with his wife over dinner, then they go out to a party with Arthur Bush. George meets Helen. After a while, he wants to go home but his wife doesn’t. Finally, as he’s about to leave and join her out he finds her hands in hands staring at Arthur.

The drive back home. A young man is expecting George and blackmails him about Margaret’s pretended love affair.

George and Kay quarrelled again. George drove to Margaret in Santa Monica. He was given a description of his magnetism. Then he left her to find his wife back home and in love with him. They discussed the blackmail and he found out that Margaret had attempted to commit suicide.

The “film” finishes as it started with Dolores and the prospect of going fishing with Jules. His magnetism is back on…


to stare (regarde fixement), burst into tears (éclater en sanglots), to call for (rendre visite à)

Exercises on Magnetism, p. 68.

1- George Hannaford was a movie-star who lived near Holywood in California;

2- She thought about having a love affair with him;

3- Because he would thus be able to get away from his wife;

4- He couldn’t understand why she was jealous of Helen Avery; He was in love with his wife and only thinking of having an affair with Helen, nothing to do with love!

5- She asked him to sign blank papers…;

6- First she cried, p. 47, then she pretended that she was detached p. 48, then she started harrassing her.

7-Arthur Busch is a movie producer who’s been in love with Kay for a long time. He surprised George when he caught him gazing at his wife, hand in hand, very tenderly…

8- He came to blackmail George;

9- Because she called him to apologize about the previous night and in fact she wanted to get him back!

10- She told him that their marriage was over. We think she was trying to fool him and wanted George to worry about losing her and she pretended that she was going to leave him with their baby!

11- He went to see Margaret Donovan and have an explanation about her strange behaviour. She wanted him as a lover and he only thought about her as a good friend.

12- He discovered that his wife hadn’t really meant to leave him and that Margaret had attempted to commit suicide.

13- Magnetism in this story is an irrepressible attraction George represents for all women without being aware of it nor making any efforts to charm these women!

Three Hours between Planes.

rather (plutôt) , cheek (joue), that’s not fair (c’est pas juste), to add (ajouter), lips (lèvres), upset (bouleversé), glad (content), as though (comme si) . It doesn’t really matter (cela n’est pas vraiment important).
Questions p. 69
  1. He found her maiden name in the phone book, then he phoned and found out that she married and was now a Mrs Gifford.
  2. He saw her last when they were 12 years old;
  3. He’s a nice and attractive man who probably has a love affair in New York…;
  4. She learned that his wife passed away. She also learned that she might have been unfaithful at some stage but that Donald had forgiven her.
  5. He said this because he’s a nice guy. He thinks couples should stick together even if one suspects the other of being unfaithful.
  6. They found out that the Donald she meant wasn’t him actually.
  7. He thought that his dream was over and that it wasn’t so important after all. It’s normal for him to lose one’s childhood dreams.

Check these links for the background stories: Wikipedia

Only The Cut-Glass Bowl text

The full novel transcript (unsimplified) thanks to the University of South Carolina

The filmed version discussed on the U. of Liverpool site

A song was even produced…check this out on the Divine Comedy Site

More to be found at

5 thoughts on “The Cut-glass Bowl and Other Stories

  1. 1)Bernice was the girl crazy about Warren McIntyre
    2)she feel love for him
    3)Because she was a boring girl and she was not funny
    4)she thought she was popular because her family was the richest people in Eau Clair and she thought if the boys didn’t cut in her because she’s respected
    5)the thought this because she have done many ideas about clothes and make up but Bernice won’t listen because she thought that Marjorie was a flirt and will come to a bad end
    6) she told her that she make must herself look as good as possible
    the girls charmed a boys with her eyes.

    • Me la habian recomendado y fuí a llevarme 2 litros para tomar en casa. Aparte de que la prepararon en un envase de corcho que la mantuvo peaecftrmente durante horas, es la mejor horchata que he tomado desde hace años !!!!.

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