Although Mrs. Stevens is seventeen years older than May Sarton was at the time of the book’s publication, and although there are many other differences between the author and her creation (Sarton, for example, has never married), in many ways F. Hilary Stevens is an autobiographical character. In her upper-class, cultured background, in her love of the country, in her disciplined work habits, in her production of both poetry and novels, and in her dependence on inspiration from personal involvement with other women, Hilary Stevens is like May Sarton. The comments made in the fictional interview are very like comments of Sarton to her own interviewers. May Sarton understands the “feminine” aspects of her protagonist—the need to arrange a beautiful bouquet, the compulsion to serve a proper tea to her guests, even her rather maternal response to young Jenny Hare and to troubled young Mar Hemmer.
The relationship between Mrs. Stevens and Mar, however, is extremely complex. Mar is a desperate, angry young man. At Amherst he fell in love with a male chemistry instructor and, after one sexual encounter, was rejected. Unable to continue his college career, he dropped out and came to his grandfather’s country place, where he broods, sails, and confides in Mrs. Stevens. In Mar, Mrs. Stevens sees boyish qualities, which remind her of her younger self, but also the masculine aggressiveness of her father. Moreover, she recognizes creative talent, which she...
(The entire section is 460 words.)