(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mrs. William Trimble, an independent and comfortably fixed widow, and Miss Rebecca Wright, a spinster who is dependent and of marginal means, discuss the impact of the severe weather on farmers in nearby Parsley as the two women journey home in Mrs. Trimble’s horse-drawn carriage. Although the two women are friends, the author emphasizes the differences between them by having the narrator shift the focus from their conversation to their demeanor—how they respond to the ride and to the cold. Mrs. Trimble, an “active business woman” who has been obliged to handle her affairs in all types of weather, is accustomed to riding in the open air. Miss Wright readily shows that she is uncomfortable.

Mrs. Trimble is more than industrious and self-sufficient. She is a generous woman who takes some interest in the affairs of Hampden’s needy; she is a Lady Bountiful of a sort. Miss Wright’s dependence on Mrs. Trimble for transportation, her obvious discomfort, and her timidity establish an immediate contrast with Mrs. Trimble. Although the speech of each woman is markedly regional, the differences between Mrs. Trimble and Miss Wright’s speech suggests the difference between their social class and reinforces the differences between their personalities.

As the two drive along a rural road, they discover that they are approaching the farmhouse in which two of their friends—elderly sisters on welfare—have been placed by the town. These friends...

(The entire section is 523 words.)