The Bookkeeper's Wife

"The Bookkeeper's Wife"
Author Willa Cather
Country United States
Language English
Published in The Century Magazine
Publication type Periodical
Publisher The Century Company
Media type Magazine
Publication date May 1916

The Bookkeeper's Wife is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in Century in May 1916.[1]

Plot summary

Percy Bixby, a bookkeeper, steals money from his company to pretend he earns $50 a week and seduce Stella Brown. Once, he visits her and they talk about their honeymoon; she seems pleased. She will marry him instead of Charles Gaygreen, who is wealthier.

Later, the new boss at his company notices Percy doesn't take holidays, and shies away from him. Percy ends up admitting he stole money before getting married. Back home, his wife wants to go to the theatre and he explains what has happened. She says she will take up work in Charles Greengay's company and stay with the Burks. Finally, Percy has moved into a boarding house and tells his boss he can pay him less for the debt to be paid back more quickly, as he doesn't need as much money any more.


Major themes

References to other works

Literary significance and criticism

It has been noted that the story was influenced by John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.[2]

The story has been singled out for portraying a "new woman", that is one who is financially independent.[3]

Other critics have dismissed it as it was only written by Cather to earn money.[4]


  1. Uncle Valentine and Other Stories: Willa Cather's Uncollected Short Fiction, 1915-29, University of Nebraska Press; Dec 1973, page 97
  2. Slote, Bernice, 'Introduction', Willa Cather, Uncle Valentine and Other Stories: Willa Cather's Uncollected Short Fiction, 1915-1929, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973, p. xi
  3. Bradford, Curtis, "Willa Cather's Uncollected Short Stories", American Literature, 1955, 26:546
  4. Stouck, David, Willa Cather's Imagination, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1975, p.78
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