Through the restoration of farmland to productive usefulness, Glasgow demonstrates the restoration of women’s lives to human usefulness and fulfillment when they have satisfying work and human relationships, instead of the limits imposed on them by romantic myths. Dorinda experiences a satisfying existence not only through her platonic marriage to Nathan and her care of his children but also through her dedication to her dream of restoring the barren land of their farm. Glasgow dissects Dorinda’s emotional life and its psychology. At first, Dorinda believes that she is irreparably damaged and cheated by her failure to find an enduring and passionate love. This experience, however, allows Dorinda to use her sense of reason to direct her life, instead of her emotions.

Glasgow uses the weak-willed Jason, frightened as a child by his father into an adulthood of ineffectiveness, as a foil for Dorinda’s determination to live a useful and fulfilling life in spite of the destruction of her spirit by Jason’s betrayal. Glasgow explores the effects of heredity, nature, and a modified determinism on people’s lives. Dorinda’s channeled inner strength (an inherited “vein of iron”), natural energy, intelligence (reflected in her agricultural research), and sense of directedness, as well as the fateful intervention of the doctor and his wife, account for the difference between her success and both Jason’s failure and that of her parents, in spite of the latter’s hard work.

Glasgow balances the portrayal of Dorinda’s untiring efforts to make the land productive with an equally realistic portrayal of her inner life through the use of such traditional devices as doubles,...

(The entire section is 694 words.)