Analysis

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 245

Constance Fenimore Woolson’s "Rodman the Keeper" tells the story of John Rodman, a New Hampshire man who moved south after the Civil War and realizes that the animosity felt by Southerners will extend far beyond the war. Rodman cares for Ward De Rosset, a dying confederate soldier; Rodman believes that a soldier cares for another soldier, no matter what. When De Rosset's fiance, Bettina, arrives, she is haughty and unappreciative of Rodman’s help. Although they dislike what each other represents, and they don’t talk very much, they both notice one another. De Rosset eventually dies, and Bettina leaves. She does return, but she and Rodman cannot be together; their identities keep them apart.

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This short story deals with the lasting tensions of war that exist long after a war ends. Woolson, alive during the Civil War, was keenly aware of how relationships between Northerners and Southerners were after the war. A Northerner herself who spent winters in the south with her mother, Woolson’s text examines what it means to feel as though you don’t belong somewhere.

Woolson also looks at the psychological effects of war on soldiers. Both men have been affected, though we get a clearer view into Rodman’s mind. The war has left him feeling out of sorts, and he has a very rigid routine and a perfectionist attitude toward tasks. These make him feel as though he is in control and as though things make sense.

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458

This superior local color story is told from the limited omniscient point of view, one in which the narrator enters the mind chiefly of one character, here, John Rodman. However, Woolson not only supplies his thoughts, but she also often encloses them in quotation marks to show that the lonely man has reached a state in which he conducts dialogues with himself and sometimes with the buried dead. For example, he has begun to identify with a dead northern soldier who shared his last name. When he decides somewhat reluctantly to invite the dying Ward De Rosset into his cottage, he mentally consults first the dead Rodman whose approving reply Woolson also records.

By revealing Rodman’s attempts to reason out his behavior in a logically articulated fashion, Woolson reveals the very delicate stability of the mind of this as yet unrecovered soldier. Still severely wounded physically and mentally, he has invented a series of therapeutic exercises to help him restore his health. One of the most dramatic of these self-discovered therapies is a method he has found to impose order on his chaotic thoughts. It is, in fact, the same one that American writer Ernest Hemingway would depict his Nick Adams using almost five decades later in “Big Two-Hearted...

(The entire section contains 703 words.)

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