The Dear Departed Summary by Stanley Houghton


The story of Dear Departed depicts the sad reality of the modern nuclear families that are strained with selfish interests and individual desires. Reflecting the society at large, the tale takes place at the house of the Slaters.

Mrs. Slater is one of two daughters of Mr. Abel Merryweather who lives with her. The other daughter Elizabeth and her husband Ben stay separately.

Merryweather Lying Motionless

The two sisters are not on talking terms with each other as they often quarrel on things when in the same place. Mrs. Slater’s husband, Henry and daughter Victoria stay in the house with her father but rarely care about his health and happiness.

One day Mrs. Slater finds her father sprawled motionless on his bed. She assumes the worst and declares him dead. She asks Victoria to change into sober clothes as a form of respect as they in mourning of her father’s demise.

Greed & Quarrel

Henry also joins them and the three start rearranging Abel’s things for their own benefit. Henry sends a message to the Jordans and they were on their way to the house. Aware of the time that was at hand, Henry is encouraged by his wife to take her father’s slippers.

Then, the two move her father’s bureau in their own room in place of their old and creaky chest. Henry was not too happy about such disregard for the things of the recently departed and Victoria expresses her discontent vocally but to no avail.

Soon the Jordans arrive and the sisters give each other a cold and customary kiss. The four of them waste no time in talking about the funeral and in particularly the bestowal of their father’s things. The departed’s insurance is discussed as well as the contents of his obituary.

They decide to start dividing his things and Mrs. Slater asks Victoria to go to her grandfather’s room. Irritated by her mother’s greed and frostiness she trudges to the room reluctantly.

Mr. Merryweather Alive

However, she returns with an expression of white horror on her face. She informs them that the dead had reawakened and was preparing to come down to talk with all of them.

Mr. Merryweather is surprised to see his estranged daughter in the house as they have not come to meet him for several years. The fact that all the people are dressed in clothes worn for mourning baffles him.

Excuses to Hide Greed

Mrs. Slater tries to quell any suspicion by saying that Ben has had a family bereavement and they were honoring the dead with their attire.

Suddenly, her father notices Henry wearing his footwear. Victoria quickly seizes them and offers them to him. His father asks about his bureau and Mrs. Slater is mortified to come up with a sound excuse for moving it.

Elizabeth, taking the opportunity to have a dig at her sister, accuses her and Henry of stealing. This ticks the Slaters and both the couples resort to finger-pointing and name-calling. The truth is finally exposed and their father is devastated by their lack of compassion and care for him.

He gathers courage and decides to make wholesale changes coming next Monday. First, he teases his daughters by saying that he will offer his will to the daughter in whose house he will die. The sisters quite expectedly begin to quarrel over it as well.

Merryweather’s Decision

Calming everyone, he proclaims that he is giving all his belongings to Mrs. Shorrocks (works at a Church) who loves him and truly worry for him.

They will marry each other and spend the rest of their days taking care of one another. In the end and with a cheek in his tone, he asks his daughters and their greedy husbands to attend the wedding and bless the bride and groom.

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