Friends or Lovers Quarrel and Are Reconciled ANYBODY CAN have an argument. And anybody's argument is grist for the slick mill if the following conditions are fulfilled. The argument must be between groups and individuals who have an underlying bond of affection or allegiance strong enough to make a reconciliation seem worth while. The cause of the argument must never be so serious or basic that a satisfying reconciliation cannot be effected. Both disputants must be somewhat, if not equally, at fault.
A husband and wife, as might be expected, are by far the most popular protagonists for these quarrel stories. What they quarrel about can be everything or literally nothing, providing it isn't the cause for a genuine and lasting difference. Money is fine!
A young wife begins gently upbraiding her husband be' cause she considers him a spendthrift. She wants him to put all their loose change away against the future. She nags him to the point where he reforms with a vengeance. He begins to throw up to her every little semiluxury she indulges in. He refuses to take her out to dinner or to the local movie house . Before long she sees the error of her ways. He admits to h av ing been a trifle too loose with money, and they strike a happy compromise.
Who will be the boss is a fine cause for a conjugal fight. I am a housewife. I see that the young couple next door are on the outs, and drop over to find out if I can help patch things up. The disaffected wife is upset because she feels her life is being run by her husband. I see that she is beyond convincing that it is proper for the husband to be king in the house, and as an object lesson plan an after-dinner party to which I invite this young woman and her husband along with two other couples. One of these couples has a happy, successful marriage in which the husband is the boss and the wife properly respectful of that fact. The other couple I invite, though, operate in reverse. The woman rules the roost, and the husband has long since given up the struggle. The unfortunate result of this unnatural shift of power is a husband who has lost all initiative, all interest in doing anything but placating his spouse. The young wife from next door sees the error of her ways and nicely hands over the reins to her hubby.
Who will wear the pants and carry the scepter in the family is, after all, a fairly serious long-range problem, the improper solution to which could be disastrous to a marriage. A good many quarrels, though, have causes quite P etty in relation to the dust they raise.
Another young married couple are out dining in a restaurant one night. The husband in a tone of idle comment remarks what a striking woman is sitting with a man at the next table. This cuts the wife dead. She feels she has been unfavorably compared to another woman and manages to ruin the entire meal, despite the fact that the husband with. draws the observation, apologizes many times over, and generally implores his wife to forget the whole thing. But the wife is inconsolable-until she goes to leave, when she overhears the woman in question taking her husband down for having passed a pleasant remark about the first wife. "Circular" stories like this which end where they began are extremely popular, as pointed out before. Neither editors nor readers ever seem to tire of them, perhaps because the stories give the impression of having dramatized a quaint, universal facet of human nature.
Most of these quarrel stories progress and finally end much as do tales which deal with a hero who is hamstrung by a delusion or false belief. The quarrel will usually be caused, as a matter of fact, by the disputants' inability to see a situation or action or mood for what it really is. And just as in the delusion stories, the misconception must be righted by some dramatic turn of events. Just as a story could hardly be made of a deluded hero sitting down on a log to think himself out of his delusion, there is no sale in describing two disputants debating a difference to its logical and equitable conclusion. The differences of the two people or groups that are arguing are emotional. Any change of heart must be emotionally effected in order both to constitute a convincing denouement and an interesting one.
As an example or, rather, as another example. One young married couple is asked by the next-door neighbors for a loan of $200 to finance an invention the second husband has been working on. The two couples have been the best of friends, and, despite the fact that the first couple had intended to buy a boat, they lend the money. After all, the second couple promised to return it soon. Unfortunately, they don't. The invention falls through, and the debtor pair begin to crawl. The wife does little odd jobs for her husband's creditors which the first couple find extremely embarrassing. Tempers on both sides reach the boiling point, and just as the two couples are about to break relations beyond repair they see their respective children fighting over a dime one of them has found. The heat of the argument is plainly out of all proportion to the cause. The parents learn a lesson and are reconciled. Of course, the $200 gets back to the boat-buyers. The reconciliation is not always brought about by a spontaneous dramatic episode developing out of the action of the story. Quite often, it is accomplished by means of a physical gimmick.
Two newlyweds move to the home of the husband in New England. The house is full of Down-East atmosphere and, because of childhood associations, very dear to the husband. The wife, though, wants to modernize the place, change it into a ranch-style home. Little disagreements arise over minor changes, but the major issue of complete redecoration never comes to the fore. Instead, the pair grow continually more cold toward each other. Then, one day, the husband returns home to find the house on fire. The fire is eventually extin. guished without having caused much damage, but first the husband rushes into the burning structure to save as much of the original furnishings as he can. The wife, seeing him almost lose his life, realizes for the first time just how much the house and its contents mean to him and agrees to leave it as it is. Very often, a third party will bring the quarrel to an end.
There was one zany hill-billy story about a girl who marries a boy from a clan her family has been feudin' with for generations. The girl's pappy disowns her on that account, refuses to recognize her even after she has borne a child. The girl's younger brother is intent on bringing father and daughter together and kidnaps the child to show it for the first time to the father.
As the brother suspected, the old man's heart just melts away at the sight. He acknowledges the daughter, and the age-old feud between the two families comes to an end. One final word. Stories in which both parties are equally at fault seem to be more popular than those in which the blame is onesided. And-the means of reconciliation must be intense and original. It's the gimmick, and it should be strong.