Style and Technique
The mysticism and dreamlike nature of Mrs. McNair’s life is mirrored in Godwin’s prose. Short, incomplete sentences printed in italics that are interspersed throughout the story forcefully convey the tragic, mystical aspects of Mrs. McNair’s life. Godwin’s precise language creates a surrealistic mood against the tragic undercurrent of the story. Images of a contented young woman are juxtaposed against fervent reminders of a tragedy that she underwent. Twice a detached voice wonders how the woman was able to retain her sanity, thereby planting doubts in the reader’s mind. Although the story is related from the point of view of a detached observer, it ends, persuasively, again with print italicized, in Mrs. McNair’s own words. “I am a happy woman, that’s all I know. Who can explain such things?” Whether she is mad as suggested and as her husband fears, or she has simply experienced an alternate reality, is rendered inconsequential. Only her visits with her son are important.
Symbolism abounds in this story. Deprived of sexual desire and physical sensation after her ordeal, Mrs. McNair rides in reckless abandon on her stallion, an animal that is the embodiment of uncontrollable sexuality. She rides him fearlessly, not as the demure housewife that her neighbors believe her to be, but as if she is beyond the mundane world, for nothing more can affect her. Surely the otherwise kind father and good husband, Mr. DePuy, would not wish her to fall were she riding a subdued mare, appropriate for a young wife. A stallion, however, best serves her altered, surreal state of existence.