Gail Godwin’s short story “A Sorrowful Woman” is centered around a wife and mother.
who becomes overwhelmed with her husband and child, and withdraws from them. Gradually, .
she completely shuts them out of her life. Dissatisfied with being in and her ability to fulfill the role as dutiful mother and wife, she tries on different approaches, but finds that none of them satisfies her. She is accustomed to a traditionally specific role, and has a difficult time coping with a more extensive array of choices when presented to her. Set in a time when women had already established themselves as a force within the arena of equal rights, she somehow lags far behind this quite modern era.
Godwin’s protagonist is not so much dissatisfied with the traditional role of mother, wife, caretaker and house keeper, but rather quite unhappy with the fact that she feels inadequate in this situation. While she lives a structured life and her activities are mostly confined to caring for her husband and child, she is obviously not satisfied with this. She is not so concerned with the social implications of the role, but rather her discomfort with not being able to fit into the structure. Her inability to fit the role, as she perceives it, causes her to try other roles. Though she tries many, none of them seem to satisfy her, which most likely contributes to her sense of helplessness and continued withdrawal from her family and finally the rest of the world. .
“The Sorrowful Woman” gets help from the perfect young lady, and for some time she delights in it. It was as if she would live a normal life again, but this was not to be sustained. She becomes jealous of the help because she finds it difficult to watch another person doing what she wants to and cannot. She sees to it that the help is fired because the help was very good as a caretaker and homemaker. She then tries to take on the persona of the fired help in an effort to recreate herself as being good for that role, and failed there too.