The short story “After You, My Dear Alphonse” by Shirley Jackson shows two boys, Johnny and Boyd, using the expression “After you, my dear Alphonse” playfully. Mrs. Wilson, Johnny’s mother, invites both boys to lunch. She is surprised to see that Boyd is African American.
Mrs. Wilson insists that Boyd must eat well and starts asking him about his family. Boyd reveals that his father works in a factory. Mrs. Wilson, who assumes that he does physical labor, is surprised to find out that Boyd’s father is a foreman. When Mrs. Wilson asks Boyd about his mother, he reveals that she does not work and that she takes care of him and his sister. Johnny also tells Mrs. Wilson that Boyd’s sister, Jean, is going to become a teacher.
Surprised that Boyd does not have more siblings, Mrs. Wilson insists that Boyd needs to eat as much as he wants to. She then offers Boyd some of Johnny’s old clothes, and she also wants to give Boyd’s mother and sister some of her old dresses. Boyd is confused and says that he has plenty of clothes and that his family can afford to buy anything they need.
Mrs. Wilson expresses her disappointment at what she believes to be Boyd’s ungrateful attitude and proceeds to clear the table while he is eating. The boys go back outside to play, while discussing Mrs. Wilson’s attitude which they do not seem to understand.