Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"Jordan's End" is a short story by Ellen Glasgow.

It begins with a young doctor looking for Jordan's End, a country estate in a Virginian county. He comes to a fork in the road and must decide which way to travel. Before he can continue his journey, however, he is surprised by the appearance of a very old man.

The old man tells the doctor to take the less traveled of the two roads, the one called Old Stage Road. He also asks the doctor for a ride, as he maintains that he is also heading to Jordan's End. The old man introduces himself as Father Peterkin.

According to Father Peterkin, the Jordan family has been in decline for a time. Young Alan Jordan is ill, so his wife, Judith, has been handling matters pertaining to the estate. Father Peterkin reveals that Judith and Alan have a nine-year-old son, and three old ladies live with the small family. He also reveals that the old ladies are Alan's grandmother and the wives of his two uncles. They are supposedly "deranged" and exhibit the mental decline habitual to the entire Jordan clan. This revelation makes the young doctor feel uncomfortable.

Upon arrival, the doctor meets Judith and marvels at her sublime beauty. She reveals that she has already written to Dr. Carstairs, the leading psychiatrist in the country, who will arrive to examine Alan the next day. In the meantime, Judith is relying on the young doctor to make an informed diagnosis of Alan's condition.

Basically, Judith wants to know whether there is any hope for Alan. When the young doctor meets Alan, he notices that the young man is still in his physical prime. However, Alan remains oblivious to his surroundings and even his wife.

After examining Alan, the young doctor's diagnosis of Alan is the same as the one given by Dr. Carstairs, who sees the patient the next day. Both doctors maintain that Alan's dementia is incurable.

The next day, an old black servant sends for the young doctor. When the latter arrives at Jordan's End, he sees that Alan is dead. With pity, the young doctor notes that Alan died from a cruel disease in the prime of his youth.

After watching the sad spectacle before him, the young doctor concludes that, if Judith hadn't administered the killing draught, she at least did nothing to stop its administration. Before he leaves, he asks Judith if he should come again. For her part, Judith replies that she will only call for him when the situation demands it.

In his heart, the doctor knows that Judith will never call for him again.

The story ends with the young doctor climbing into his buggy and driving back into the woods towards town.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access