Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Freeman employs a terse style that relies on significant, and often comic, gestures rather than on extended narrative or description. She complements this style with both biblical and historic allusions, likening Sarah’s “meek vigor” to that of New Testament saints, and comparing Sarah’s transformation of the new barn to General James Wolfe’s decision during the French and Indian War to gain the element of surprise by launching a surprise attack from the plateau above Quebec.

In her portrayal of Sarah, Freeman makes it clear from the beginning that she is describing a capable and devoted woman whose meekness was the result of her own will, not someone else’s. Her ability to make their “little box of a house” into a home worthy of the finest suitors and to make shirts from scanty patterns testify both to her Yankee ingenuity and to her self-reliant spirit. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when she seizes the opportunity and moves the family into the new barn.

Throughout the story, Freeman relies on understatement. There are no great confrontations and no pivotal moments. Instead, there is a building of nuance that leads the reader to anticipate that a change is about to take place. When the change does come, the actions are depicted in a matter-of-fact way that reinforces Sarah’s contention that if one is sufficiently patient, one will find a way to reap the rewards earned during a lifetime of service.