Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gail Godwin is a feminist author who explores the trials and ordeals of modern women. In Dream Children (1976), a collection of her early short stories, she examines the lives of women who are disappointed, betrayed, and lost, women who are desperately trying to escape their unfulfilled lives. “A Sorrowful Woman,” which comes from this collection, creates an ironic fable about a woman who can no longer accept her role as wife and mother, the role that patriarchal myths have defined as the proper role for women. Feminists have pointed out how women are trapped by a feminine mystique that holds them up as perfect nurturers and caretakers. To rebel against such a role was once diagnosed as a sickness. This trap or mystique is what the story’s protagonist is fighting against, but she sees no alternatives, nor can she define or clearly express her problem. The sorrowful woman represents a type of woman who was not meant to be defined as a wife and mother and who finds herself trapped with no options. The fable maintains its sense of universality. The woman’s problem is not created by a husband who is demanding and restrictive; the husband is all too understanding, and the child adjusts well to his separation from the mother. Their acceptance, however, only seems to put more pressure on her to conform to her role.

The remedies proposed to solve the woman’s problems are all counterproductive. First, she seeks rest and reprieve from her duties,...

(The entire section is 558 words.)