(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sarah Penn feels compelled to challenge the status quo and assert her own moral imperatives against the more prosaic desires of her husband, Adoniram. Sarah is not by nature a hellion or a woman intent on challenging male dominion; she is a long-suffering wife who has waited forty years for her husband to honor his promise to build a new house to accommodate their domestic needs. Through all these years, she has been the consummate helpmate who devotes the bulk of her energies to ensuring that none of her husband’s wants go unmet.

As the story opens, it is early spring and the land is full of new growth and unseen blossoms. Sarah and Adoniram are engaged in a dialogue that is both sparse and familiar. The conversation, sparked by Sarah’s inquiry regarding the digging going on in the adjacent field, ends when Adoniram refuses to discuss his decision to build yet another new barn in the exact location where he had once promised to build a new home to replace the old homestead.

Despite her obvious displeasure, Sarah returns to her household chores. She even defends her husband’s actions when their daughter, Nanny, complains that his decision to build a new barn disregards their need for a better house. In Sarah’s view, Adoniram has been a good provider and has always attended to their needs without delay. They have, in her estimation, a house that is commodious despite its physical limitations. She trusts in her husband’s judgment, much as she might in the forces of Providence, and remains convinced that there is a master plan.

Sarah’s resignation to her husband’s will is part of a persona she has crafted over the years. Just as she has...

(The entire section is 689 words.)