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Places to Go: Mr. Peebles’ Heart by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Written by Rachael Norris, 25th September 2020

The theme for our #DailyReadings in September is beginnings and endings. In this week's audio adventure we're reading Mr. Peebles’ Heart by Charlotte Perkins Gilman with The Reader's Learning and Quality Coordinator, Lisa Spurgin. 

New beginnings can happen at any time in life, which is reassuring for us to know whenever we feel that it might be too late to start over again, for whatever reason. When we get into a state of believing that a new beginning is out of reach or simply impossible, we could do much worse than to regard Arthur Peebles, the title character of this short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as a shining example of why that just isn’t true.

Mr. Arthur Peebles is fifty; probably over halfway through his life. He owns and runs a store, which even though it is far from being his dream profession, he is dedicated to, never having had a sick day or letting his customers down. Duty is the word that perfectly characterises Mr. Peebles’ nature. He also shows an unwavering duty towards his relations, particularly his female family members, who earlier in the story we learn that he has ‘carried’ throughout their lives; first, his mother and sisters, his two daughters before they left home, and his wife. The only woman who does not require the effort of his support is his sister-in-law Joan, a doctor who has come to live with the Peebles’ while she prepares to set up her own practice. Joan discovers that Arthur has long-held interests and dreams which he has let go of in order to do his duty, and using her professional intuition, decides to make an intervention for the benefit of her hardworking and heartsick brother-in-law.

What is particularly heartwarming about the tale of Mr. Peebles is the way it shows how the people close to us can provide us with the confidence that we may lack in ourselves. Being brave enough to forge a different path is something that takes time, sometimes money, but certainly energy and a unique perspective upon the world. In most instances, even if we don’t realise it, we don’t take these changes all on our own; indeed, we can only often go forth because we have someone cheering us on from the sidelines.

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