The Widow Themes
by Beth Lordan

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Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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The central theme of Lordan’s magical story is the mystery of the other. The premise of the parable is that often one spends one’s life focused on ordinary, everyday things and never sees the special magic of the person with whom one lives. Ann’s life often seems endless and perverse to her, designed to keep her from finding out about Warren; she has felt this great excitement the first time she saw him transformed and knows it is an excitement that ordinary living has kept pushing aside. Before it happened the first time, she knew some things about Warren—that he was fussy about his eggs, that he would always sleep on the side away from the wall, and that he got corns on his left foot and not on his right. However, when she first sees him illuminated, he is transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and she feels something like a “deep memory” about the magical transformation.

After the vision, Ann’s life goes back to its normal rhythm. In some way, she is glad the vision fades and the “real” Warren returns. When their daughter is born, she thinks these are good “ordinary” years—a wholesome, sturdy, serious time. However, when she sees the vision of Warren again, this time doing somersaults on the grass, she feels triumphant and breathless because he seems released from the everyday like a childlike creature.

Ann and Warren’s everyday life is broken up again by tragedy, the death of their child, which leaves a void that makes Ann welcome a third manifestation of Warren’s magical illumination. After this time, Ann begins to understand that her ability to see Warren in its special, secret nature, is love, although she does not think of it that way.

At the end of the story, when Warren, unaware that Ann is there, makes his first wish to leave, he can do so because Ann is already gone, and all he wants is to join her. At first, Ann can feel only a heavy weight of loneliness and a sense of disappointment. However, on thinking about her situation, she knows she still has two wishes. Her first one, for tears, expresses her sense of poignant loss of all the time past, the nostalgic sense of those moments when life could have been special; her second wish, unstated, but assumed, is to join Warren. Thus, the story ends with a sweet sense of the fulfillment of the promise of lovers—that they will never leave each other.