Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 578
During the dead of winter in 1918, a rural farm family faces starvation. After a summer in which the crops failed, the father is sick in bed with a protracted case of the flu, and the four children are all very young, by modern standards, to be of much help. It is left to the narrator’s mother to find a path through the dilemma.
Her solution is to resume a craft she learned as a girl, basket weaving, and to enlist the older children in the enterprise. The unnamed narrator, who is ten years old, supplies the raw materials for his mother. Through bitter cold he trudges to a nearby bluff to cut white oak saplings so that they can later be cut, quartered, and splintered to serve as basket-making materials. In addition to his new responsibilities in the basket-making venture, which include taking the finished products to the closest town and selling them, the boy labors on the farm from early morning until night. Much of the description of the story centers on the details of his chores: milking the cow, feeding the stock, and tending the fires. One of his major responsibilities on the farm is cutting, hauling, and splitting firewood, a task with which his mother helps him in the early and middle parts of the tale—but which she leaves entirely to him in the final section of the story.
By any standards, the young boy’s lot is a difficult one, but he accepts all of his responsibilities without complaint and carries out each one with surprising success. He relishes the tasks that would customarily be a man’s work, and he especially likes selling the baskets that his mother makes each day to his neighbors and the townsfolk. One of the boy’s most mature accomplishments is negotiating the purchase of fodder and corn, which will keep the stock alive until the pasture grass returns in the spring. In all things, the lad follows his mother’s instructions precisely, selling the baskets for the price she establishes and buying the food that they need to see them through the difficult winter. Through the mother’s careful planning, they are even able to put a small sum aside. The father’s illness lingers, but all the children do what they can to reduce their mother’s household burdens so that she can continue to increase her production of the wares that are sold to provide the food they sorely need. Both the mother and the children develop a sense of pride in their self-reliance, and she cheers her family by reminding them often that even as the snow deepens on the ground, the violets are budding underneath.
Through much of the story, the reader waits for the tragedy that will shatter the stoic bliss of the brave little family. When the narrator’s mother sends him to fetch the doctor, it seems as if the ax has finally fallen, and that they will be overwhelmed by nature, snow, and cold, as is the family in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale “The Ambitious Guest,” a narrative that bears comparison to both “Spring Victory” and a similar Jesse Stuart story, “Dark Winter.”
The story’s surprise ending is that the doctor has been summoned, not to treat the ailing father, but to deliver the mother’s baby. Spring finally returns, the father gets well, and their close scrape with disaster draws the family even closer together.