The use of the first-person narrator, a young, impressionable physician who is just starting out in life, provides the author with the opportunity to reveal to her readers a tale that affects the doctor’s sensibility. He is both sobered and saddened by what he encounters at Jordan’s End, and because he represents a new generation, a kind of new southerner, his “getting of wisdom” makes a statement about the future as well as the past. Moreover, Glasgow’s use of the physical description of the road leading to Jordan’s End and of the house and the grounds—and of the dimly lit room in which young Alan Jordan is confined—contributes to the sense of foreboding, and to the picture of decay. Adding to this is the raw autumn weather in which the story takes place. Although the story is a flashback with the narrator in the present recollecting something that happened some thirty years ago, Glasgow trades on the reader’s awareness that there are many old houses at some remove from towns everywhere—houses that would yield, if they could only speak, similar tales of decline and fall.
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Wagner, Linda W. Ellen Glasgow: Beyond Convention. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.