Mrs. Ripley's Trip

by Hamlin Garland

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Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 401

Several aspects of Garland’s style enhance the effect of the story, especially his use of details conveying the sense of sound. He captures the Ripleys’ simple but salty conversation and the squeaks of Mr. Ripley’s old violin. He vividly suggests the sounds of nature: the “rattling” of the snow, the “moaning” of the cornstalks in the wind. His eye for visual detail is equally proficient. As Jane Ripley struggles back home through the drifts, Garland describes the wind’s inflation of her skirt, which throws her off her track into the deep snow. Back home she must remove kettle marks from the tablecloth at home and the “splotches” of pancake batter with which her husband has clumsily decorated the top of the stove. Garland’s colorful imagery often emerges through the voices of his characters, as when Ethan is portrayed as the type of man from whose back troubles slide like “punkins off a haystack.”

Garland relates the stories of Main-Travelled Roads economically, and “Mrs. Ripley’s Trip” is the shortest and perhaps the most economical of the six. He is a writer who know what to leave out of his story as well as what to put in. Clearly wishing to keep the focus on the vicinity of the Ripley farm, Garland moves directly from the leave-taking scene at the depot to one in which a neighbor looks out her kitchen window and sees Jane Ripley walking back home from the station. Garland does not attempt to describe Ethan’s and Tukey’s reduced state while Jane is gone but simply has Mrs. Ripley sweep her practiced eye over their inept attempts at housekeeping on her return.

The reuniting of husband and wife is deliberately understated. They are an old married couple clearly embarrassed by the prospect of revealing emotion, but the reader realizes that it is nonetheless there, for their prior actions have already demonstrated the love that these two crusty old characters feel for each other.

The controlling image of the stories in Main-Travelled Roads is the road itself. Literally it is the route—alternately dusty, snow-swept, and boggy—that the characters must traverse; symbolically it is the road of life. The road that Mrs. Ripley travels mirrors the hardships of her life, but it is also the point of departure of an inspiriting journey back to the locale and the people of her earlier years.

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