A Sorrowful Woman & Gender Role Essay
Gail Godwin’s “A Sorrowful Woman” is to some extent an attack on marriage and gender roles. She allows us to view the social lie that comes with this commitment and in doing so I believe that Godwin is allowing her audience to see marriage from an entire different perspective.
She is allowing us to see the reality of what the epigraph at the beginning of the story reads, Once Upon a time which always implies that it is a fairy tale with a happy ending. The protagonist being the nameless woman is portrayed as a woman with one too many roles. None to which she feels satisfied by.This woman deteriorates little by little and she withdraws from the environment that is causing her demise, the environment that keeps her busy as a mother, and a wife, her commitment to marriage. Her unhappiness and notable depression is depicted throughout the story.
Her duties as a wife and a mother being the cause of her sadness and sickness are clearly visible when she observes both child and father and expresses to her husband that she does not want to see them. She is overwhelmed with them both and eventually shuts them out of her life.Not able to understand why she feels the way she does, she eventually questions herself, she wants to know what has happened to her; looking for an answer trying to find the woman she once knew as oppose to the woman she has now become. She is not able to decipher why she feels the way she does about her roles as a mother and a wife. Life to some extent is confined by a role related to gender. On the other hand the husband who is the antagonist abides by the marriage vows that he made to his wife and he stands by her in sickness and in health.
Although she has emotionally locked herself away and has tired of her many roles he is supportive and he acknowledges that she needs her space and time. He demonstrates his support in numerous ways, one being that he expresses that he wants her to feel free as well as by hiring a girl to help around the house with the chores. In doing so, he is clearly implying that he is aware of what is causing her spiritual deterioration and he is not selfish but rather a tough, open minded and a good man; a good man who cares for his wife in every possible way.His duty as a husband is the opposite of what is expected from a society that is confined by the rules of patriarchy, where one does not always see a man getting the house chores done nor taking on other responsibilities that pertain to women.
Unlike his wife he is not pitiful or selfish, but rather part of this world. He is not withdrawn. The husband’s role is clearly inverted in this story. Both couple is in sorrow because they are suffering the consequences of their lack of communication, more importantly they are both equally trapped in their role.He tries to meet her expectations by being a good husband, never once allowing himself to become desperate and never admitting that the situation he is dealing with has gone beyond his understanding; while she tries to meet the duties that society expects and in doing so she sacrifices her happiness. In conclusion, A Sorrowful Woman allows us to see that not every marriage has a happy ending; It is the reality and the contrary of the illusion that the happy ending in all fairy tales have; where we all expect the princess to find her prince and live happily every after.
More importantly it is the reality and the contradiction of what the social system has encased through the Patriarchal doctrine. The husband in this story contradicts the role for patriarchy by taking over the chores of the house, something essential and common for women to do. Allowing us to see that men can do the chores without being the weaker sex and that masculine skills can still be valued but not above femininity; and without following the traditional female society that portrays the patriarchal role as the dominant.