Like the story’s meaning, the form of “Sorrow-Acre” reveals its folktale origins but takes on the complexity of modern fiction. The story is divided into four parts. The opening section is a leisurely description of the Danish landscape and an exposition of all the elements of this medieval world. In the second part, Adam and his uncle meet and begin their debate. Part 3 is a romantic reprieve, a description of the lovely young mistress of the manor as she awakens alone and observes the fertility of this spring morning. The main action of the story takes place in the last part, where the two men argue, are reconciled, and then part, and where Anne-Marie’s tragedy is played out.
If the pace of the story is almost stately, the descriptions are rich and passionate. Dinesen lingers over these figures in her landscape and, like some writing god herself, paints all the characters (including the setting) with equal fullness. The shift in the reader’s loyalty, from an identification with Adam at the beginning to a recognition of the rightness of the lord’s justice at the end, is carried off without calling attention to itself; even Dinesen’s religious symbolism seems natural and unobtrusive in the unified fabric of her story.
Style, in short, helps to enhance the power and poignancy of “Sorrow-Acre.” By the end of the story, most readers will agree with Adam: “For to die for the one you loved was an effort too sweet for words.”...
(The entire section is 443 words.)