Analysis of Gail Godwin's A Sorrowful Woman
Gail Godwin's short story "A Sorrowful Woman" revolves around a wife and mother who becomes overwhelmed with her husband and child and withdraws from them, gradually shutting them completely out of her life. Unsatisfied with her role as dutiful mother and wife, she tries on other roles, but finds that none of them satisfy her either. She is accustomed to a specific role, and has a difficult time coping when a more extensive array of choices is presented to her. This is made clear in this section of the story.
As a housewife and a mother, Godwin's protagonist leads a fairly structured life. Her activities are mostly confined to caring
for her husband and child and caring for their home. Though she is obviously unsatisfied with this, as shown by her attempts to discard this role, she is not comfortable without such a structure. Even when she has moved into the white room, she develops a routine of brushing her hair in the sun each day. When she decides to write a poem, she shies away from the project once she realizes how many options are open to her; the idea of so much freedom seems to distress her. Even when she thinks that "her poem could be six, eight, ten, thirteen lines, it could be any number of lines, and it did not even have to rhyme," the words themselves are rushed, the pacing of the sentence communicating her nervousness and discomfort.
Her dissatisfaction with her role in life also leads Godwin's protagonist to try on other roles. Though she tries on many, none of these seem to satisfy her either; she "tried these personalities on like costumes, then discarded them." Her inability to find any role that actually satisfies her probably contributes to her general sense of helplessness
and continued withdrawal from her family and, indeed, the rest of the world. Since she cannot find any particular role that suits her, she attempts not to have any role at all; the coldness and isolation of the undecorated white room make it seem that she is trying to empty herself of her previous life.
Her withdrawal from the world is also presented in this passage. She chooses to move into the white room, now no longer decorated by the previous inhabitant. White can be a very cold, sterile color, and it serves to illustrate her lack of attachment to the room or to her own home. She describes the view of the streets as an outsider, watching but not participating. She pictures herself as a virgin in a tower, untouchable and profoundly isolated. She has not only isolated herself physically, but also emotionally; she allows herself no personal attachment to the world, no personal relationship with anything in it. She makes herself an outsider, looking in on the world.
Godwin's "A Sorrowful Woman
" illustrates throughout the manner in which a woman slowly withdraws from her husband and son, her home, and the world. This passage also illustrates this process; it gives a reader her sense of detachment from the world at large, her inability to deal with too many choices, and her dissatisfaction with the role she has played in life. It effectively captures the feelings that run throughout the story, and, when examined, presents insight into Godwin's protagonist.