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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

"Old Woman Magoun" is a linear short story.

It is told in the third person objective and the diction used is that of vernacular nineteenth-century New England. The story centers on a grandmother's deep love for her grand-daughter and her efforts at saving the young girl from a life of suffering and degradation.

In this short story, the protagonist is Old Woman Magoun and her nemesis (the antagonist) is her reprobate son Nelson Barry.

When Nelson shows up to claim his daughter, Old Woman Magoun knows what sort of fate awaits her beloved granddaughter. So, she hatches a daring plan to save Lily. However, her hopes are dashed when the Greenham lawyer decides not to adopt the young girl.

On the way home from Greenham, an instance of dramatic irony seals Lily's fate. Old Woman Magoun knows that the nightshade berries will kill Lily, and readers understand this, as well. However, the innocent Lily is oblivious to her danger. Freeman uses similes to foreshadow or alert us (the readers) to Lily's ultimate fate.

Noteworthily, Old Woman Magoun looks up at the heavens pleadingly as Lily eats of the deadly berries. The old woman sees the clouds and they are shaped like "wings," as if to remind us that Lily (an innocent child) will soon take her place among the angels.

Freeman uses similes freely in her short story to make unfolding events more vivid for her readers.

After Lily eats of the colorful fruits of the nightshade plant and is taken sick, Old Woman Magoun tells her that she is going to a "beautiful" place. In this place, the roads and stone walls are made of gold. When Lily asks for an explanation, the old woman assures the young girl that the gold color matches that of the ring she received from Lily's grandfather. So, it will be familiar to Lily.

Old Woman Magoun also tells Lily that dolls can run, talk, and love in this beautiful place. Later, after Lily dies, we are told that her hands and feet are like "ice."

The imagery is a jarring one. On this earth, Lily will never know true happiness or peace. Like her mother before her, she dies young. However, in heaven, Lily's innocence will be cherished and respected.

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