Jordan's End Summary
by Ellen Glasgow

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Jordan's End Summary

"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.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the story opens, the narrator, a young doctor beginning practice in an isolated section of Virginia near the turn of the century, is on his way to Jordan’s End, a country estate at some remove from a small town. He has been sent for to examine Alan Jordan, the owner of the place. As he goes along in his horse and buggy, he encounters a fork in the road: One branch of its gives indications of having been well traveled; the other, deeply rutted but covered with grass and overhanging leaves, appears to have been little used. As he ponders which road to take, a voice from the bushes by the side of the main trail advises him to take the well-traveled road if he is going to the country store. Emerging from the woods, a stooped old man appears in the road, and when the doctor inquires the way to Jordan’s End, the fellow points to the less used trail and says that if the doctor is going in that direction he would like to ride along.

As the two travel the road to Jordan’s End, Father Peterkin, in response to the young doctor’s questions, provides information about the ill fortune that has beset the master and mistress of the place. It appears that ever since the Civil War the fortunes of the Jordan family have been in severe decline. Now, according to Father Peterkin, young Alan Jordan has been taken ill and the management of the place is in the hands of his wife, Judith, the...

(The entire section is 1,300 words.)