Gail Godwin Short Fiction Analysis
Gail Godwin’s two volumes of short stories have received little critical attention in spite of the fact that they anticipate many of the themes Godwin explores in her novels. One such overarching theme, for example, is the relationship between men and women, especially in marriage. Many stories in Dream Children, as in Godwin’s early novels The Perfectionist and Glass People, explore the nature of women’s subordination to men and the various strategies the women adopt to subvert it. There is a prevailing note of dissatisfaction, quest, rebellion, escape, and revenge, often frustrated revenge.
Unlike the realism of Godwin’s early novels, however, Dream Children contains experiments with form (especially in “Notes for a Story”) and explores elements of fantasy and the supernatural, including the nonrational dream world and how that impinges on everyday reality. In the title story, for example, a woman whose child was stillborn has a series of strange nocturnal “spirit” meetings with a child who, as a newborn, was briefly and mistakenly presented to her as her own baby. Sometimes the fantasy elements take on a dark coloring, but these are balanced by stories (“An Intermediate Stop,” “The Woman Who Kept Her Poet”) that hint cryptically and obliquely at mystical, spiritual moments of realization.
There is a shift in Godwin’s second collection, Mr. Bedford and the Muses. Almost...
(The entire section is 1357 words.)
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