Summary and structure

In what follows, we will focus on the summary and structure of “Dead as They Come” by Ian McEwan.

Summary

A rich middle-aged man falls in love with a dummy, a clothing store mannequin. After several months looking at it in the window, the man names the dummy Helen and becomes convinced that the two of them belong together. He purchases it after inventing a story about the dummy and its clothes being a gift for his wife. The man, a three-time divorcee, begins a relationship with the dummy, performing with it all the acts of a normal relationship: intercourse, cooking, sharing thoughts and experiences, etc. A few months later, the man begins to suspect Helen is having an affair with his chauffeur, Brian. After a few weeks of ignoring her, the man decides to confront the dummy. Seeing its indifference, the man rapes the dummy and smothers it with a pillow, killing it. He faints and when he wakes up he begins ransacking his apartment and destroying the expensive items he owns.

Structure

The short story is structured in the form of a first-person account of the main character who describes his relationship with a lifeless mannequin that he treats as a living person.

The narrative is very detailed and descriptive, rather than being focussed on action, but it respects the elements of a traditional plot—exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Title

The title of the short story, “Dead as they come”, refers to the lifeless condition of shop mannequins and hints at the resolution of the short story. Although the dummy was lifeless from the start, the main character considered it al...

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