Summary Of A Sorrowful Woman

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With “A Sorrowful Woman,” Gail Godwin crafts a tragic tale of what appears to be an overburdened mother and a loving husband desperately trying to hold their family together as they cope with the wife’s deteriorating mental and emotional state. The text strongly supports the idea that a mental illness drives her irrational behavior. However, mental illness is not the only factor behind her actions--it is not even the primary cause. She has suppressed her own sexuality and denied her attraction to woman, creating an environment that allows her mental illness and addiction to grow until they consume her. “A Sorrowful Woman” examines the detrimental effects of the mother’s repressed sexuality on her small family, as well as how addiction and isolation hasten her descent into madness.
The mother denies her sexuality for fear of retributions and judgements from her family and by society. Her repressed feelings have accumulated over the years and resulted in a subconscious hatred for her husband and son. Godwin communicates how little they mean to the woman by never even revealing their names. Instead, they are referred to as “the husband”(1) and “the child,” (1) viewed by the mother as extras in the production in which she is trying to play a believable
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These norms are reflected by the husband, who recognizes the causes of his wife’s tribulations, but is paralyzed by his selfish fear of revealing them. Had conditions been different, the mother could have carried her burdens effectively. However, she was walking on unsteady ground that was strewn with obstacles such as her struggle with her identity and well-meaning family, her addiction, and pressure from society. She dropped her burdens of motherhood, but by that time she could no longer find her way through the obstacles of her ravaged
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