Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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 River” (1925), another story about a scarred veteran returned from war who is trying to put together his damaged psyche. Like Hemingway’s protagonist, Rodman attempts to impose order by carrying out his affairs...

(The entire section is 458 words.)