Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Writing this story after she herself had left New England for marriage and New Jersey, Freeman nevertheless lost none of her ability to capture the realities of the region of her birth. The flavor of late nineteenth century New England is captured in the subtle dialect as accurately as its social realities are reflected in the tensions between the sexes. “It seems queer to me,” Old Woman Magoun tells Sally Jinks, “that men can’t do nothin’ without havin’ to drink and chew to keep their sperits up.” Idiomatic terms such as “sperits” and “ary” for “a single” define the region; the description of the new bridge as “a primitive structure built of logs in a slovenly fashion” reflects the declining products of patriarchy in both the human and material heritage of New England.

The bridge frames this tragic tale, appearing in both the opening and closing paragraphs. Built under the influence of Old Woman Magoun, it is yet a “rude” structure and leads her only to Greenham, where the inevitability of the fate she sees in Barry’s Ford is simply confirmed for her by the lawyer. Nor are women happier across the bridge, if the grieving Mrs. Mason is any example.

Another symbol Freeman employs in this regionalistic tale is Lily’s old rag doll. A symbol of Lily’s youth and innocence, the doll is a matter of concern to both her father and Jim Willis. Lily wraps both arms around it to free her hand from Willis; when her...

(The entire section is 406 words.)