Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Keepers of the House is divided into four sections and an epilogue. Abigail’s point of view dominates three of the sections: the first, the fourth, and the epilogue. The inner chapters, told by Abigail through the consciousness of William and Margaret, provide the poetic base for the novel, for the force that leads William to Margaret and Margaret to William, shaping their destinies and those of their children and the children of their children, is strong enough to transform a chance meeting into a necessity and every coincidence into part of a pattern of ultimate destruction.

As Abigail tells the reader, her memory goes back well beyond her birth. The house in which she lives was built by generations of her family. The stories that are a part of her heritage become stories that surround her, figures of people who parade in front of her. Abigail is able to speak through the minds of William and Mary because these stories form a ring around her and become so much a part of her that they constitute a portion of her own consciousness.

The Howland story starts in 1800, when the first William Howland finds a place to settle. Succeeding generations, each with a William Howland, add to the house and acquire more land and more wealth. The first William is killed in an Indian raid, and his sons avenge his death with even greater violence. One Howland is married and dies in the Civil War. Abigail’s grandfather, however, is not a violent man. He slaughters animals for food but never kills wild things, although hunting is part of the way of life of the area. William knows the kind of woman he should marry to bear his children, and when he finds an appropriate girl, he courts and marries her within...

(The entire section is 706 words.)