The author Barbara Gowdy has succeeded in “We so Seldom Look on Love” to arouse our curiosity through a romanticized depiction of what most would consider a sin, necrophilia. It is most probable that society in the nineteen fifties influenced the style and choice of characters to explore such delicate and obscure behavior. Barbara Gowdy proved herself to be very clever by opening a passage through the soul of a young woman, in order to humanize the inexplicable lust for dead flesh.
What better way to translate imagination in its purest form than through the soul of a young women: “When you die and your earthly self begins turning into your disintegrated self, you radiate an intense current of energy.” (p. 1) Certainly the author wishes to offer an approach to necrophilia that defies the reader’s expectations. The idea that such a disturbing behaviour can evolve in the heart and body of a girl at such a young age, can alter the reader’s preconception on the necrophiliac’s physical and emotional profile: “Necrophiles aren’t suppose to be blond and pretty, let alone female.” (p. 4) With this statement, Barbara Gowdy reinforces the contrast of the story versus the judgement of her society in the fifties.
When the author decided to explore a controversial matter of sexual nature, such as necrophilia, she made a thoughtful decision by choosing a woman as the vehicle of this sin. Society tends to perceive certain sexual behavior with varying degrees of acceptance, based on the gender of the person in question. Masturbation is an example of one such sexual behavior easily accepted when performed by a man but perceived as unhealthy when performed by a woman. I doubt that a descriptive story on necrophilia would have been published should the main character have been a man. Woman have the power to soften what would otherwise seem arch: “…he would push...