A Sorrowful Woman

by Gail Godwin
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In "A Sorrowful Woman," how does author Gail Godwin use point of view to give meaning to the story?

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This story is told in third person. It is as if, on the whole, the scenes we see are being filmed by a camera. We see the actions going on and hear the dialogue but have to interpret what it all means.

For example, we see that the husband

squeezed his wife's pale arm and put the two glasses on her table. After he had gone, she sat looking at the arm.

We can visualize this, especially the wife's eyes lingering on the arm, but it is up to us to figure out what it means. Likewise, we are not told that the husband is upset but are shown that he

sat for a long time with his head in his hands.

However, we are given added information. The journalistic point of view of the story--flat, factual, and detached--reflects the detachment that the woman is feeling from her family and life. Further, if we look at specific words, these reinforce the wife's disengagement. For example, she looks at "the" arm, not "her" arm, after her husband squeezes it, suggesting she is even detached from her own body.

The point of view shows rather than tells us the wife's emotional withdrawal from her family and especially shows how drained she is and unable to nurture. Rather than give us interiority, this perspective gives us concrete details to analyze.

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"A Sorrowful Woman" by Gail Godwin is written in the third person point of view in a fable-like fashion. The short, clipped sentences give it a detached feeling, as though someone is observing the story unfold much like one might read an article in the newspaper--almost as though a reporter is giving the readers the news of the day.

The story is about a woman who seems to have a pretty perfect life, yet she can no longer stand to see her own child and husband. We never really find out why, though it is assumed that she is suffering from depression. The point of view lets us observe this woman's daily life, but we are kept at a distance much like her husband and child are kept at a distance due to her desire to be away from them. She detaches herself, first from her family, then from the outer world, and eventually from herself. This is much like the detachment created by using the third person point of view to tell the story in an emotionless, matter-of-fact manner.

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