The Lottery and Other Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories Summary and Analysis of "A Fine Old Firm"

Mrs. Concord and her daughter, Helen, are sewing together, when they are interrupted by a visitor, Mrs. Friedman. Mrs. Friedman’s son Bobby is in the army with Mrs. Concord’s son Charlie, and both boys have written to their families about one another. The women share stories from Bobby’s and Charlie’s letters, discovering that each man has written different versions of the same events.

They continue to make pleasant conversation, with Mrs. Friedman praising the reputation of Mr. Concord as a schoolteacher. As Mrs. Friedman leaves, she mentions that her husband is interested in Charlie, who studied law before joining the army. Mr. Friedman is a founder of a prominent law firm, and Mrs. Friedman offers her husband’s help for Charlie’s future career as a lawyer. However, Mrs. Concord declines the offer, saying that Charlie already has a job lined up with another established law firm, one founder of whom is one of her husband’s oldest friends. Agreeing that these are fine law firms, the women bid goodbye and Mrs. Friedman leaves.


Like "Afternoon in Linen," this story simply depicts the passive-aggressive tug-of-war between Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Concord over who has the more prominent and admirable family. Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Concord both have sons in the army who write to them frequently. Since she is aware of her son's friendship with Charles Concord, Mrs. Friedman (mother of Bob Friedman) visits the Concord women. While outwardly complimenting each other's husbands and sons, these women also seek to evaluate and "one-up" one another. This is another example of the petty social hierarchy that constricts small communities or social circles.

This story does not feature a clear protagonist or antagonist, for Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Concord are cut from the same cloth. They are similar in social stature and bearing. When Mrs. Friedman brags that Charlie Concord has written her a thank-you note, Mrs. Concord rushes to point out that the Concord family knows plenty about the Friedman business as well. Both women care deeply about how their family members are perceived in the community. These perceptions are based upon their husbands' careers (Mr. Concord as a reputable teacher and Mr. Friedman as a successful attorney) and their sons' accomplishments (in the army, and their future employment prospects). Ultimately, Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Concord engage in the same social competition to feel superior to each other.

The mention of the law firms is a symbol of each family's social position. Being affiliated with such " a fine old firm" is a mark of distinction and warrants respect. Under the veneer of the "friendly" visit and sociability, the Concord women and Mrs. Friedman struggle with the veiled conflict over family prestige. Mrs. Friedman purports to visit the Concords to extend her friendship, given that their sons are such good friends, and the Concords receive her cordially. However, beneath the polite exterior, the women engage in social competition regarding their families' relative social status.