Gender

Examining the female character(s) and how she/they have handled their assigned task or gender role

Gail Godwin’s short story A Sorrowful Woman revolves around a woman who feels burdened by her everyday life of being a wife and a mother. She feels overwhelmed by the presence of her husband and child and gradually starts withdrawing from them and in the end becomes successful in her endeavor. The story ends with the death of the woman. Emily Grierson As a child Emily was manipulated by her strict and disciplined father who instilled in her the old south values. When she reached the age of marriage, her father rejected all her suitors apparently because he thought no man was eligible for her. Her upbringing thus isolated her from the residents of the town and she became totally dependent on her father. It was for this reason when her father died she refused to acknowledge his death for three days. After insistent requests by the townspeople she eventually broke down, and they buried her father quickly. Her first sign of setting herself free from the psychological bondage to her father was when she started dating Homer Barron who belonged to lower social status, knowing very well her father would never approve of Homer. But, when Homer informed her that he was not interested in marrying her she reverted to her secluded self. Life had become a standstill for her and it was then she decided to murder Homer. A year before she buys arsenic she comes out of her seclusion to keep company with Homer. His low social status indicated her willingness to break the norms of the South values. When Homer refused to marry she had the choice to continue living in the modern world and seek a new life partner for herself or seek psychological counseling. Instead she chose to murder Homer. To promote her behavioral pattern of rejecting the modern world she refused to pay tax bills of the new generation of tax leaders. Because her father did not allow her to befriend the young men of the town, her sexual growth did not happen in a normal manner. The climax of the story indicates that she is a necrophiliac which means she is sexually attracted to corpses. It emerges from the powerful urge to control others. Her father had a strong control over her, a characteristic that she displayed when she showed the same control over the dead body of her father for three days. Later on she transferred this control to Homer. For forty years she did not disclose the dead body of Homer and when at last it was discovered after her death it was revealed that she had developed the habit of sleeping with the skeletal remains of the corpse. Emily is presented as protector of Southern values and in doing so she isolated herself from the modern world. In the end the futility of clinging to old values is represented by the fact that in the final years of her life she found solace in the corpse of Homer which indicated a decaying ideal: For a long while we (townspeople) just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him….Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair (Faulkner). A sorrowful woman Godwin’s story represents an ordinary woman with a husband, durable, receptive, gentle and a son tender golden three

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