Study Guide

Rodman the Keeper

by Constance Fenimore Woolson

Rodman the Keeper Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

John Rodman, a Union Army veteran who takes care of a large cemetery in which fourteen thousand Union soldiers are buried, comes to grasp the depth of animosity felt by southerners against their conquerors, both living and dead. He understands that although the legacy of hatred may in time diminish, the aftermath of war can be as destructive as war itself.

Having taken a poorly paid job in what was formerly enemy country, Rodman hopes to recover mentally and physically from the experiences he endured during the war. The mild southern climate will restore his body, he thinks, while the mechanical work of groundskeeping, record keeping, and administering in such a quiet place will restore his tortured mind. Additionally, he hopes to repay his fallen comrades for their sacrifice to a cause in which his faith has never faltered.

In short order, he learns that those living nearby want no part of him or the cemetery. They regard both as symbols of an unwanted occupation. However, as an open-minded man, he attempts to acclimate to his surroundings, to find admirable traits in his poverty-stricken neighbors whom he admires for their soldierly qualities and their single-minded devotion to a way of life as he tries to adjust to a climate very different from his native New Hampshire.

One hot day, in search of a cold spring, he finds a great house in total disrepair in which lives Ward De Rosset, a sick former Confederate soldier now being...

(The entire section is 527 words.)