Magdalene has been single for too long. When she meets James at a party she is both excited and cautious at how forward he is in his conversation. He immediately asks her out again and she accepts. The story thrusts the reader forward through lessons that she has learned.
We soon realize that James is one of those bullies who abuse their women. Magdalene is forced to do some pretty awful things on her birthday when James gives her a ‘gift’. She suffers through the experience and even dissociates herself from the scene. After the birthday gift is given and James has his way with her yet again, he tells her that he expects her to resign from her nursing position.
James has now taken away from her every aspect including home, family, money, and now job. He owns her and she belongs to him and only him. She is now trapped in a constant state of humiliation and is prepared to die from his abuse.