Gail Godwin’s “A Sorrowful Woman”, tells the story of a woman that no longer desires the responsibility of being a mother and wife. The author initially creates an emotional attachment for the reader towards the lead character, then, throughout the story she ensures, through the use of character development, that the reader is enveloped in hatred toward the woman.
Godwin opens her short story with an opening sentence that confuses the mood of the parable and confounds the reader. “Once upon a time there was a wife and mother one too many times” (39). Those first four words, the quint-essential opening of every story book fantasy that invokes beautiful imagery of princesses and green forests with colorful gardens and carefree animals and always has a way of overcoming great obstacles to endorse a long and happy life, opens the reader’s mind to a cheerful theme. The next six words present an “ah” moment, eliciting the feeling of comfort and caring that a wife and mother provides. She has extracted emotions of love and adoration that many of us endear with our mothers to passion and intimacy towards our wives. Ms. Godwin has, in the first ten words of her first sentence, devoted the reader to the main character without even mentioning anything about her. We do not know who she is, we do not know where she is, we do not know how she is, but we want to know.
Brilliantly the author now reverses the tone of this happy fable and vexes the reader with the last four words of the sentence. We are left questioning as to what happens to our loving and caring wife and mother of this heart-warming story and why. Oh, how we are taking on an emotional ride with that opening sentence.
So here we are, perplexed as to which path at the fork our author is going to lead us down. We do not have to wait long. She fully stamps this story with despair within the first paragraph, “The sight of them made her so sad and sick she did not want to see them ever again”