Critical Analysis: A Sorrowful Woman

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“A Sorrowful Woman” by Gail Godwin, opened with once upon a time, but this short story is far from a fairy tale. The woman is never named throughout the story, leading the reader to believe she feels she has no identity, and the fact that her family is never named either could lead one to believe there is no connection to them. In the very beginning, the husband is described as “durable, receptive, gentle; the child a tender golden three” (39), but the sight of them makes her “sad and sick” (39). As a reader, I want to know how these feelings of despise and disgust came to be. As the story unfolds, the unnamed wife becomes increasingly distant from the love of her husband and son. She required alcohol to help her sleep, indicating depression or some other psychological illness. When the boy would play with her, she would lock herself in a room away from her. She even went so far as to hit the boy when the husband was there to witness. He saw her mental health deteriorating, and knew she felt trapped within the family. Taking care of her son became unbearable, so the husband hired a live in nanny to take care of the boy. After allowing the boy to bring the mother an insect as a gift, the nanny is eventually fired by the wife. The husband begins to take the boy to daycare while he is at work. He then comes home to cook, clean, and tend to the boy. Her internal conflict eventually leads to the climax when she completely isolates herself in a separate room, only coming out when the husband and the boy are away. While most women want families, she despises hers. In this room, she could imagine she was anywhere but where she actually was. She would dream of being a virgin, locked away in a tower, reiterating the fact she did not want to be a mother or a wife and instead she would be in a fairy tale. After daydreaming, she comes out one day to find changes in the other
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