Literature Annotations

Dubus, Andre
The Fat Girl

Genre Short Story (14 pp.)
KeywordsBody Self-Image, Eating Disorder, Family Relationships, Obesity

Fat Louise, with an eating disorder since she was nine, would diet in public and sneak candy and peanut butter sandwiches in private. Her parents pitied her and were embarrassed by her. Her college roommate caught her at the secret eating and offered to help her get control of her eating. The diet and exercise ritual, combined with smoking, brought her weight down 60 pounds and made her beautiful and eligible to be married. Her parents were proud. She got married. But often she felt "no one knew her"--that she really wasn't this slim 120 pound beauty.

Then during her pregnancy she lost the discipline and ate compulsively and secretly. After the baby was born she continued to eat--her husband disapproved and didn't want to touch her, her mother scolded. The marriage, based on appearances, started to fall apart; she looked forward to being alone with her child and able to eat anything she wanted without other people judging her.

CommentaryThis complex story about a woman with an eating disorder focuses on her feelings rather than giving any clinical diagnosis of the problem. Vicariously we feel, along with Louise, the pity and disapproval of her parents whose standards--especially her mother's--seem all surface appearance. Because she really feels her roommate Carrie loves her for herself, she can do the diet routine with her guiding care, but when she is with her husband, it's clear that he doesn't love her for herself but because she was the thin, attractive boss's daughter. When she's fat, he doesn't want her and she never really has wanted him. While the outside world may read the ending as a defeat, it may also be understood as Louise finding herself and accepting herself.
SourceAdultery and Other Choices
PublisherD. R. Godine
Place PublishedBoston
Alternate SourceThe Tyranny of the Normal
Alternate PublisherKent State Univ. Press
Alternate Edition1996
Alternate EditorsCarol Donley & Sheryl Buckley
Place PublishedKent, Ohio
Annotated by Donley, Carol
Date of Entry 04/16/96
Last Revised 10/09/12