Towards the end of the book, Gwenda effectively gives Steven to her sister Mary as her high-minded principles refuse to let her have an affair with him. As she trudges home wearily, trying desperately to recapture the magic of the flowering thorn-trees, Gwenda conducts a duologue with a carping voice in her head. The voice confirms her worst fears: that yet another precious thing in her life—in this case, Steven—looks set to be taken away from her. Gwenda's inner voice rails against the unfairness of it all. Why does she always have to be the one giving all the time? Why can't she have something for herself for once?
But the dialogue partner in her brain is unrelenting. Ever critical, the voice says that Gwenda should've taken her chance. Gwenda responds by saying that she'd rather have died. "Do you call this living?" says the voice. For good measure, it then goes on to suggest that Gwenda sacrificed Steven, not for the good of Mary, but for the sake of Gwenda's wretched soul.
The voice is clearly unconsoling in that it doesn't offer Gwenda any comfort at this difficult moment in her life. Having given up Steven, she needs a bit of emotional help and support. But because Gwenda is so riddled with doubt and insecurity, she's unable to console herself. Her mind is tormented by thoughts that, in letting Steven go, she's made a huge mistake.