Throughout history, woman has faced the often-times unpleasant choice of giving her total self to save either a principle or a loved one. Perhaps the first such recorded incident, other than various quoted incidents in the bible, was the sacrifice the young princess of Egypt, Cleopatra, made to her Roman captors. Many love stories have been written around the relationship of Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony, and the hapless princess, but it is fairly well documented today that her love was not for her conquerors but for her people, whom she attempted to save by the use of her womanly charms from their hated conquerors.
In Mr. McElroy's novel, he has applied this situation to a not too unusual modern-day circumstance. He has placed the heroine, an innocent young housewife, in a position where she must make a historical Cleopatran choice. That is, the choice between the safety and well-being of a loved one or the prostitution of her own body and soul. Her task, unfortunately, is not made easier by her ambitions but irrational young husband.
He becomes, in effect, an unwitting instrument in his wife's own moral destruction.