Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 699
If Mandy'd been spared such poor eyesight, an' Ann hadn't got her lame wrist that wa'n't set right, they'd kep' off the town fast enough. They both shed tears when they talked to me about havin' to break up, when I went to see 'em before I went over to brother Asa's. . . . I've been so covetin' a chance to git to see 'em. My lameness hampers me.
Miss Rebecca Wright, poor herself, takes advantage of being in a horse drawn carriage with her wealthier friend Mrs. Trimble to mention stopping to see old unmarried friends, Ann and Mandy Bray. In all three cases—Miss Wright, Mandy, and Ann—poverty in a woman is associated with a physical disability that both makes it difficult for her to work and symbolizes the inherent disability of being poor.
A man ought to provide for his folks he's got to leave behind him, specially if they're women. To be sure, they had their little home; but we've seen how, with all their industrious ways, they hadn't means to keep it. I s'pose he thought he'd got time enough to lay by, when he give so generous in collections; but he didn't lay by, an' there they be.
The well-to-do Mrs. Trimble shows the confidence her money gives her in being the one to assert opinions and judgments, as she does above, when she condemns the Bray's father for giving to the church rather than saving money to leave to his single, aging daughters.
It was impossible for any one to speak for a moment or two; the sisters felt their own uprooted condition afresh, and their guests for the first time really comprehended the piteous contrast between that neat little village house, which now seemed a palace of comfort, and this cold, unpainted upper room in the remote Janes farmhouse. It was an unwelcome thought to Mrs. Trimble that the well-to-do town of Hampden could provide no better for its poor than this, and her round face flushed with resentment and the shame of personal responsibility. "The girls shall be well settle in the village before another winter, if I pay their board myself," she made an inward resolution, and took another almost tearful look at the broken stove, the miserable bed, and the sisters' one hair-covered trunk, on which Mandana was sitting. But the poor place was filled with a golden spirit of hospitality.
In this pivotal moment, Miss Trimble and Miss Wright see just how impoverished the dignified Bray sisters have become, dependent on the charity of a town that clearly won't provide adequately for them. In this tale which relies on pathos to move the emotions of readers, the drab, isolated surroundings contrast with the "golden spirit" of the sisters.
Then there was a silence, and in the silence a wave of tender feeling rose high in the hearts of the four elderly women. At this moment the setting sun flooded the poor plain room with light; the unpainted wood was all of a golden-brown, and Ann Bray, with her gray hair and aged face, stood at the head of the table in a kind of aureole.
In what is called pathetic fallacy, the weather reflects the golden, uplifted mood of the four older women as they great each other. The sunlight flooding the room mirrors and underlines the joy the visit brings.
I consider myself to blame," insisted Mrs. Trimble at last. "I haven't no words of accusation for nobody else, an' I ain't one to take comfort in calling names to the board o' selec'men. I make no reproaches, an' I take it all on my own shoulders; but I'm goin' to stir about me, I tell you! I shall begin early to-morrow. They're goin' back to their own house,—it's been standin' empty all winter,—an' the town's goin' to give 'em the rent an' what firewood they need . . . .
Mrs. Trimble's words show the power of female solidarity and illustrate the way actually seeing hidden need can move a person to action. It is notable that it is a woman of means, rather than a man, who takes it upon herself to help other women in distress.