Narrative Summary of Seven Wives and Seven Prisons

Overview: I, L.A. Abbott, am a man who has been through an incredible amount of turmoil in my life. My story is about my seven marriages, each of which led me to prison. It’s a tale of love, betrayal, and the struggles of dealing with the consequences of my own choices. While I initially attributed my troubles to the women in my life, I ultimately came to realize my own deeply-rooted obsession with marriage played a significant role in my misfortune. I hope my story serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who might be tempted to rush into marriage without careful consideration.

Main Parts:

  • Chapter 1: The First and Worst Wife: I describe my early life, the first marriage, and the eventual separation due to my wife’s infidelity. This chapter focuses on the initial heartbreak and the beginning of my complicated relationship with marriage.
  • Chapter 2: Miseries from My Second Marriage: I recount my second marriage, the arrest for bigamy, and my subsequent three-year sentence in prison. This chapter highlights the first prison sentence and the consequences of my actions. It also emphasizes my efforts at redemption and how I gained the favor of the warden.
  • Chapter 3: The Scheimer Sensation: I am introduced to the Scheimer family and my love for Sarah, the youngest daughter. The chapter recounts my failed attempts to elope with her and the intense backlash from her family.
  • Chapter 4: Success with Sarah: I eventually successfully elope with Sarah. This chapter details the escape, the pursuit, and ultimately our marriage.
  • Chapter 5: How the Scheimers Made Me Suffer: The Scheimer family’s anger toward me continues to cause me troubles. I am arrested for bigamy again and am imprisoned in a horrifying jail in Easton, Pennsylvania. This chapter emphasizes the Scheimer family’s influence and their lengths to punish me.
  • Chapter 6: Free Life and Fishing: I am released from jail and attempt to settle down, but I am caught in a scam by a man I met while caring for a patient. I relocate to New Hampshire and encounter the extraordinary story of a woman with dropsy. This chapter shows my desire for a more settled life and my continued success as a healer, despite his troubles.
  • Chapter 7: Wedding a Widow, and the Consequences: I marry a widow in Newark, New Jersey, but the marriage is short-lived due to my past indiscretions. I am arrested for bigamy again and am sentenced to ten years in prison. This chapter reveals my inability to learn from past mistakes and the consequences of keeping secrets. It also showcases the kind treatment I received in prison and my eventual pardon.
  • Chapter 8: On the Keen Scent: After my release from prison, I am once again tempted by love and marriage. My entanglement with Mary Gordon leads to another arrest and a daring escape. This chapter illustrates the recurring nature of my downfall and my desperation to escape his troubles.
  • Chapter 9: Marrying Two Milliners: While trying to settle down in Vermont, I become involved with Margaret Bradley, a milliner. The chapter recounts a mock marriage in Troy and the discovery of my true marriage to Eliza Gurnsey in Saratoga. Another arrest for bigamy lands me in jail for eleven months, eventually leading to a three-year prison sentence. This chapter highlights the escalating intensity of my trouble, the manipulation of women, and the lengths to which my obsession with marriage has taken him.
  • Chapter 10: Prison-Life in Vermont: I describe the brutal conditions of the prison, my attempts to rebel, and the ultimate punishment I endure. This chapter depicts the harsh realities of prison life and the emotional and physical toll it takes on him.
  • Chapter 11: On the Tramp: After his release, I am left penniless and destitute. I recount the kindness of strangers and my eventual return to Meredith Bridge. This chapter is about hope, resilience, and the generosity of others.
  • Chapter 12: Attempt to Kidnap Sarah Scheimer’s Boy: I reunite with Sarah Scheimer and her son, but my attempt to kidnap the boy backfires, leading to the arrest of my son, Henry. This chapter shows my determination to reunite with his son, but his inability to handle the situation wisely.
  • Chapter 13: Another Widow: I face the consequences of my actions as Henry is sentenced to prison. I receive word from Sarah that she would have allowed me to take her son. I encounter another widow who attempts to marry me, but I resist. This chapter focuses on the consequences of my actions on both my son and myself, and the importance of taking responsibility for my mistakes.
  • Chapter 14: My Son Tries to Murder Me: I recount the harrowing experience of being nearly murdered by my own son, highlighting the pain and confusion caused by my past actions. This chapter illustrates the breakdown of family and the devastating impact of my choices on those closest to him.
  • Chapter 15: A True Wife and Home at Last: I find solace in Maine and encounter a wealthy widow. This chapter explores my desire for a stable life, and his final marriage, which he believes to be his “true wife” and the happy home he has longed for.

View on Life:

  • The Cycle of Love and Betrayal: Abbott believes that love can be both a source of joy and a catalyst for great pain. He experiences this cycle repeatedly, often falling for women who deceive him, leading to further anguish and imprisonment.
  • Redemption Through Suffering: He believes that suffering can be a means of learning and growth. While he doesn’t initially acknowledge his responsibility, he eventually comes to realize that his actions have had significant negative consequences. His prison sentences, though painful, are viewed as a form of atonement.
  • Marriage as a Curse: His seven marriages, though driven by love and a desire for companionship, ultimately contribute to his downfall. He sees marriage as a dangerous trap that has caused him more trouble than happiness.


  • Elopements: Abbott attempts to elope with Sarah, but his plans are thwarted repeatedly by her family. He eventually succeeds, but it leads to further complications.
  • Prison Escapes: He is imprisoned several times and makes several daring attempts to escape, showcasing his desperation for freedom.
  • Family Reunions: Abbott encounters his children, but their interactions are often fraught with tension and conflict, showcasing the fractured family dynamics caused by his actions.


  • Dealing with the Consequences of His Actions: Abbott is haunted by his past decisions and struggles to overcome the consequences of his marriages and criminal activity.
  • Reconciling with His Children: He faces the challenge of repairing his relationship with his children, who have been significantly impacted by his behavior.
  • Escaping the Cycle of Love and Betrayal: He grapples with his persistent desire for marriage and love, while simultaneously recognizing the pain it has caused him.


  • Internal Conflict: Abbott struggles with his own desire for marriage and his recognition of its destructive nature. He experiences a conflict between his desire for love and his need for stability.
  • External Conflict: Abbott faces relentless conflict with his wives’ families and with the legal system. He is often persecuted for his actions, further adding to his woes.


  • The story arc follows Abbott’s journey from his early life through his many marriages, imprisonments, and eventual attempts at redemption. The story culminates in his finding love and happiness with a “true wife” and a stable home.
  • Key Milestones: His first marriage and separation, his prison sentence for bigamy, his elopement with Sarah, his imprisonment in Easton, the birth of his son, his escape from the Easton jail, his attempts to kidnap his son, the arrest of his son, his escape from Keene, and his eventual marriage to his “true wife.”

Point of View:

  • First Person: The story is told from Abbott’s point of view. This perspective allows the reader to understand his thoughts, feelings, and motivations, providing insight into his self-perception and his reasoning behind his actions.

How It’s Written:

  • Confessional Tone: Abbott writes with a confessional tone, baring his soul to the reader. He details his mistakes and regrets, seeking understanding and perhaps even forgiveness.
  • Example: “I protest to-day that she courted me—not I her. She was fair, fascinating, and had a goodly share of property. I fell into the snare. She said she was lonely; she sighed; she smiled, and I was lost.”


  • Confessional, Penitent: The tone is largely one of confession and repentance. Abbott seeks to atone for his past transgressions and acknowledge the pain he has caused himself and others.
  • Humorous: The story often utilizes humor, particularly in its depiction of Abbott’s adventures and his interactions with various characters. This humor helps to lighten the otherwise dark and dramatic narrative.

Life Choices:

  • Marriages: Abbott repeatedly makes the choice to marry, despite his past failures and the negative consequences. He is driven by a powerful desire for companionship and love, but his choices often lead to heartbreak and imprisonment.
  • Escaping: He consistently makes the choice to escape from jail or prison, revealing his desire for freedom and his aversion to confinement.


  • The Importance of Making Wise Choices: Abbott’s story emphasizes the importance of carefully considering the consequences of one’s actions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
  • The Perils of Obsession: The story warns against the dangers of obsession, especially when it leads to reckless behavior.
  • The Power of Redemption: While Abbott’s story is filled with misfortune, it ultimately offers a message of hope and the possibility of redemption. He is ultimately able to find happiness and peace after years of struggles.


  • L.A. Abbott: The narrator and protagonist. He is a man struggling with his deep-seated obsession with marriage. He is often impulsive and prone to making unwise decisions. Despite his numerous setbacks, he exhibits a genuine desire for love and a good life.
  • Sarah Scheimer: A beautiful and accomplished woman who is the object of Abbott’s affection. She loves him dearly, but her family’s disapproval causes her much pain and ultimately shapes the course of both of their lives.
  • Henry Abbott: Abbott’s son from his first marriage. He is a loving and supportive son, but his loyalty and concern for his father often lead him into dangerous situations.
  • The Scheimer Family: A wealthy Dutch family who are fiercely protective of their daughter. They harbor animosity towards Abbott, leading to his repeated imprisonment and further complications.
  • The Widow Roberts: A wealthy, captivating widow who becomes Abbott’s third wife. Her brother’s interference ultimately leads to Abbott’s arrest and imprisonment.
  • Mary Gordon: A beautiful woman from New Hampshire who becomes Abbott’s fifth wife. She is ultimately revealed to have a questionable past, leading to another marriage breakdown and another escape from the law.
  • Margaret Bradley and Eliza Gurnsey: Two milliners who become Abbott’s sixth and seventh wives. These marriages are driven by circumstance and illustrate the escalating nature of Abbott’s obsession.


  • The Power of Love and Obsession: Love is both a force for good and evil in Abbott’s life. While he is driven by love for the women he marries, his obsession with marriage often leads to recklessness and destruction.
  • The Consequences of Actions: Abbott’s story is a reminder of the consequences that follow poor choices. He is repeatedly forced to confront the repercussions of his actions, and his journey highlights the importance of taking responsibility for one’s decisions.
  • Redemption and Second Chances: Despite his numerous setbacks, Abbott eventually finds redemption and a genuine connection with a “true wife.” The story underscores the power of second chances and the possibility of overcoming even the most challenging circumstances.


  • Honesty and Integrity: Abbott’s story emphasizes the importance of honesty in relationships and the destructive nature of deception.
  • The Value of Family: The story highlights the importance of family, and the pain that can be caused by fractured family dynamics.


  • Character’s Intentions: Abbott’s intentions are often driven by a desire for love and companionship, but he often acts impulsively, failing to consider the consequences.
  • Reader’s Intentions: The reader is likely seeking entertainment and a cautionary tale about the dangers of recklessness and the importance of making wise decisions.

Unique Vocabulary:

  • “Matrimonial Monomaniac:” A term used by the narrator to describe his obsession with marriage.
  • “Blossom Business”: A term referencing a specific type of medicine or recipe he uses, highlighting his expertise as a healer.
  • “Texas”: A term referring to the saloon on the Mississippi steamboat, showcasing the language and culture of the time.


  • The Dream of Mrs. Blaisdell: The story of Mrs. Blaisdell and her dream about a stranger with a blossom, which comes true when Abbott arrives with his medicine, demonstrates the power of faith and belief.
  • The Escape of the Prisoner: The account of the prisoner who escapes by making a hole under his bed and using a rope to climb down the building showcases the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those in dire straits.


  • The Complexity of Human Nature: Abbott’s story explores the complexities of human nature, showcasing the conflicting desires for love, stability, and freedom.
  • The Impact of Society on Individuals: The story highlights the influence of societal expectations, family pressures, and social norms on the individual’s choices and actions.

Facts and Findings:

  • The Prevalence of Bigamy in the 19th Century: Abbott’s story reflects the prevalence of bigamy in the 19th century, a time when laws regarding marriage were less strict and societal views were more lenient.
  • The Harshness of Prison Life: The story provides a glimpse into the harsh realities of prison life in the 19th century, including the poor living conditions, the lack of adequate medical care, and the cruelty of some prison officials.


  • Abbott’s seven marriages and seven prison sentences.

Points of View:

  • The text is written from Abbott’s point of view, providing an intimate look into his thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
  • This point of view shapes the reader’s understanding of the story, influencing their interpretation of Abbott’s actions and their sympathy for him.


  • Abbott offers a personal perspective on his life, showcasing the struggles and triumphs of a man grappling with his own flaws and the complexities of love, marriage, and societal norms.
  • His perspective is one of confession and redemption, offering a glimpse into the inner workings of a man who has made many mistakes but ultimately seeks to find happiness and stability.

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