Summary and Analysis: Medicine for Melancholy The Day It Rained Forever


This story is set in the desert, in a ghost town, in a hotel that looks like "a hollowed dry bone." Mr. Terle, Mr. Fremley, and Mr. Smith live in this hotel, and they find the heat and dryness almost unbearable. They are described as being like a "damn desert cactus" in desperate need of a drink. Consequently, they are interested in little else but the possibility of rain. When they hear rumbling sounds in the distance, they are sure that rain is finally coming. However, the sound is only Miss Blanche Hillgood's car. She has "blue eyes like water," and in the back of her car is a harp case "tilted against the sky like the prow of an ancient ship." When she plays her harp for the men, the long desired rains finally fall, yet they come in the form of Miss Hillgood's music rather than real rain. Each time she plays, musical notes drop and patter like rain through the hotel, falling cool at the open windows and upon the dying cactus in the front yard. More important, however, this music rains upon the men who tilt their heads back, allowing it to fall where it will. When Miss Hillgood decides to make the hotel her permanent residence, the time of the long rains has arrived.

The beauty of music as characterized by water imagery gives the elderly men the renewed strength of spirit that they have needed for a long time. Their mundane existence on this furnace-like desert is transformed into an abundant life of joy, for the life-giving rains of music fall upon them every day. Thus, water imagery is used here as an element of transformation and regeneration. Fremley, Terle, and Smith may yearn for rain, but equally important is their need to be surrounded by beauty. They are weary of their sterile existence. For this reason, they find spiritual rejuvenation in Miss Hillgood's beautiful music. The long drought ends when their tired hearts and spirits are renewed.