Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"Rodman the Keeper" is a short story by Constance Fenimore Woolson. The most evident theme of the narrative is the ugliness and bitterness of war. The setting takes place during the aftermath of the Civil War, and the protagonist observes the psychological effects of violence. The protagonist also examines the generational hatred that stems from warfare, and more specifically hatred's roots in a clash of ideas about life, society, and politics.

The other theme in the story is the act of sacrifice. The soldiers on both sides of the war sacrificed their lives and bodies for their respective causes. The protagonist realizes this and wants to give back to his fallen comrades by taking care of a Union cemetery.

Another theme of the story is the act of understanding one's fellow man. The concept of allies and enemies are irrelevant to the protagonist, because he more interested in learning about the poverty-stricken neighbors' way of life. This philosophy of compassion for others extends to the former-slave who takes care of an ex-Confederate soldier.

In essence, the story's message centers on the ability to honor the past whilst moving on from it in solidarity with fellow Americans, regardless of whether they are former enemy combatants and hostile Confederate sympathizers.

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