We see almost the exact opposite situation in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Mitty, the main character, is trying to escape his life, of which his wife is a very disappointing part. He does not even seem to recognize her when she audibly interrupts his airplane daydream. The reader begins to see why Mitty might want to forget his marriage when his interactions with his wife are presented in more detail. She is a bossy woman, who doesn't seem to understand him at all - or even care about him very much. She commands him to get overshoes, even though he insists he doesn't need them. And later, when he says he has been thinking, she thinks that he must be sick. It is as if, to Mitty's wife, he has no life - and no thoughts - apart from her.
Two people who are too wrapped up in their own thoughts to care much about the other person are married to each other in Raymond Carver's "Cathedral." The reader begins to wonder how, or why, the main character and his wife ever got together. He is jealous of her friendship with the blind man - so much so that his wife is afraid he will ruin her friend's visit. She even questions the narrator's love for her. It seems that she is emotionally more intimate with the blind man than she is her own husband, and this could explain her husband's jealousy. In this partnership, we do not see one marriage partner trying to dominate the other. Instead, we see two hopeless people living in the same house. They might be married to each other just because they feel like no one else would want to marry them. Or perhaps they feel that it is their civic duty to get married.
This same thinking is the reason Ivan Ilych marries his wife in Tolstoy's story. Ilych is obsessed with doing the right thing, and getting married is one those things that he thinks is right because society tells him it is. Soon, though, Ilych finds out that marriage is not as pleasant as he originally thought it was going to be, so he decides to bury himself in work. Even this does not give him the satisfaction he seeks, but it lets him escape his unhappy marriage for a while.
Why are all the marriages in these stories presented in such a negative light Perhaps it is because the authors themselves experienced bad marriages, and are writing from their own experience. It could simply be because the best stories are made up of conflict, and one of the best sources of conflict is interpersonal relationships. Every person who has ever lived has experienced some sort of conflict with another human being; therefore, readers can more easily identify with characters whose love lives are less than perfect.
The reader can also distance him/herself from the negative perceptions of marriage by remembering that these stories are fictitious. The fiction label allows the reader to see that, even though the reader can identify with some of what the character is experiencing, that does not mean that everything in life happens the way it does in stories. The reader can then form his/her own, more positive, view of marriage, if he/she so desires. It is important to note, however, that not all of the stories present such a negative view of marriage. In Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the dying man thinks of his wife fondly. Unlike the characters mentioned above, he is not trying to escape his marriage. Rather, he is trying to escape his circumstances by daydreaming of his happy home.
Peyton Farquhar's escape in Ambrose Bierce's story is short-lived,