Croquet, a fad in the United States by the mid-1860s, was appreciated as a healthful outdoor activity that invited men and women to compete on equal terms as well as to visit and flirt with one another. Here, a man observes the expected courtesies by assisting his female companions in the game. He is sandwiched between two of them, who wear stylish dresses brightly colored in a patriotic palette and tower over him. Homer's apparently pleasant afternoon of play also implies the uncertain terrain of relationships between American men and women. At this time, women were evaluating the choice between their traditional roles as wives and mothers and their new opportunities for education and employment that emerged following the loss of so many men in the Civil War, growing urbanization and industrialization, and the burgeoning women's movement.