The Judge’s Wife by Isabel Allende

The Judge’s Wife is a short story written by Isabel Allende. The story takes place in the 1970s, during the Chilean President Salvador Allende’s government. The protagonist of this story is an unnamed woman who has been married to a judge for 18 years and still loves him as much as she did when they were newlyweds. The story begins with the protagonist and her husband, who had been on different sides of a war, both mourning the death of their son at his hands. The Judge’s Wife is a work of historical fiction and deals with themes such as love, loss and independence.

The author presents the theme of love by showing how unconditional this woman’s love for her husband is even after she has found out that he was responsible for the death of their only child. The loss of life is also another major theme as it mainly presented through the couple’s son as well as two other characters in the short story. The last main theme presented through this short story is independence which can be recognized because following her discovery about what truly happened to their son, the protagonist decides to leave her husband and take their daughter with her.

The Judge’s Wife is a short story written by award-winning author Isabel Allende. The length of the book is roughly 104 pages, and it was first published in 1996 by Knopf Publishing Group. The main genre of The Judge’s Wife is historical fiction; additionally, the book contains elements of tragedy and romance. The story takes place in California during the early 20th century and contains themes such as poverty and class division. The year is 1912 and San Francisco has been struck by a devastating earthquake that has destroyed most of its infrastructure and killed many people.

The unnamed protagonist (a 24-year-old woman) arrives with her baby son to visit her sister-in-law who lives on Telegraph Hill, with her husband, The Judge. The protagonist’s brother is missing after the earthquake and she fears he might be dead. The woman settles into life on Telegraph Hill with her sister-in-law, The Judge’s Wife (the narrator of the story) and The Judge, who works for a newspaper that is struggling to publish amidst the destruction caused by the earthquake.

The protagonist helps The Judge’s wife around the house as they are both grateful for their new friendship; however, tension arises when The Judge’s wife starts to suspect that there may be something romantic between The Judge and the protagonist. The protagonist goes out one day to deliver some food items to miners who are working in excavating gold San Francisco. The protagonist learns that The Judge’s wife was once The Judge’s mistress and she suspects The Judge still harbours feelings for her. The two women take up residence at The Selby Hotel where The Wife meets a man named Steve Marlowe who falls in love with her.

The Wife rejects his advances but does not tell him why, instead telling him it is due to her husband’s disapproval of dating married women; he simply assumes it is because she has no interest in men. The protagonist experiences hallucinations while at The Selby Hotel which may be related to the trauma caused by the earthquake or to delusions brought on by early pregnancy complications. She sees the ghost of a woman in one of these delusional episodes, who tells her that if she finds The Wife’s earrings, The Wife will become ill. The protagonist finds The Wife’s earrings in The Judge’s office which makes The Judge’s wife very sick.

The woman is taken to the hospital where she dies in childbirth along with her baby son. The protagonist returns to the hotel after The Wife has died and finds Steve Marlowe who tells her that The Judge had been waiting outside of the hospital for hours before he even arrived there, revealing that he knew about the affair all along. The Judge reveals himself to be a good man at heart when he pays off Steve Marlowe so that he leaves San Francisco without telling anyone else about his part in The Wife’s death, giving him The Wife’s money as well as The Judge’s savings.

The protagonist returns to The Judge and moves into The Wife’s room where she stays for the rest of her life, forever young due to The Judge’s eternal youth brought on by his curse. As far as short stories go, The Judge’s Wife is a fairly simple one with a straightforward plot and very few characters. The bulk of the story takes place in San Francisco after the devastating California Earthquake of 1906 which destroyed much of the cityscape and killed many of its inhabitants.

The narrative follows two main female characters: The Judge’s wife (the unnamed narrator) and the protagonist, whose brother went missing after the earthquake strikes. Both women are relatively new to The Judge’s life, the protagonist being his sister-in-law and The Wife being his mistress. The story is split into two parts where The Wife tries to gain The Judge’s affection by submitting to his every whim while The Judge works long hours at his job at a newspaper which publishes under difficult circumstances in the city that has been reduced to rubble.

The Judge’s wife is lonely so when The Judge starts to show interest in her due her helping around the house (he believes she is like The Wife who was very helpful), things start out well until The Wife overhears The Judge reciting poetry which he used to recite with The Wife; this causes tension between them although it cannot be ascertained whether or not The Wife has an affair with The Judge. The tension comes to a head when The Wife dies in childbirth along with her son, dying of complications caused by The Earthquake’s aftermath which are most likely related to the protagonist’s delusions at The Selby Hotel where they are staying.

The women are joined by Steve Marlowe who is in love with The Wife but she rejects him saying it is because of her husband’s disapproval; the reader knows that the real reason is her relationship with The Judge. The protagonist goes out to deliver some food items to miners who are working in excavating gold San Francisco and learns about The Judge’s wife being his mistress, leading to more tension between them although it remains unclear whether there is anything truly romantic going on between The Judge and The Wife.

The protagonist eventually finds The Wife’s earrings which The Judge had been looking for, leading to The Wife falling ill due to his curse of eternal youth. The protagonist returns from a meeting with Steve Marlowe who tells her that The Judge knew about the affair all along and pays him off so that he leaves without telling anyone else about it. With The Wife’s death, The Judge reveals himself as a good man when he uses The Wife’s money to pay Steve Marlowe also giving away his own savings to ensure Marlowe leaves San Francisco without revealing anything else.

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