Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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.

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.

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