Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s other stories of this period, such as “A Church Mouse” (1889) and “A Poetess” (1890), “A Village Singer” places a woman in conflict with male hierarchy, represented in all three stories by a minister. Here the Reverend Pollard and Candace Whitcomb have both served the same church for forty years. He sometimes hesitates in his speech, and Candace indicates that his sermons lack the freshness they once possessed. Yet no one gives him a photograph album and asks him to leave his post. The choirmaster, Williams Emmons, has held his position for decades and is older than Candace. If her voice has deteriorated, logically his must have also. Yet no one gives him a farewell photograph album. Again, as a male, he can remain choirmaster as long he as he likes.

Candace rightly feels betrayed on various levels. As an artist, she knows that her voice is still good. Moreover, she tells Reverend Pollard that salvation does not depend on anyone’s hitting a high note. A church should exhibit Christian charity. She also is hurt as a woman. For decades the choirmaster had sung duets with Candace and had walked her home after Saturday night choir practice. Villagers expected him to propose marriage to her. Instead, he supports her dismissal and sides with Alma in the ensuing conflict.

Even her nephew turns on her. He knows that her will leaves him all she owns, and both know that this legacy will allow him to obtain...

(The entire section is 460 words.)