Analysis of A Sorrowful Woman by Gayle Godwin and the Extract from A Secret Sorrow by Karen Zee

While Faye is forced to open up by a persistent lover, the woman in Godwin’s story fails to communicate with anyone and lets herself go through unexplainable tortures that do not defy her love for her husband and son. While Zee follows the structure of a formula story with a predictable plot and happy ending, Godwin deals with a much more sophisticated plot that involves mysterious turns of events and unpredictable responses by characters.

Kai, the male protagonist of Zee’s story exhibits all the stereotypes of a masculine, insistent lover who invades the personal space of Faye in order to assert his ‘ownership’ of her. Faye is thinking of sacrificing their love because she cannot conceive a child. After a lot of melodrama, she manages to tell this to Kay, and Kay assures her that he will marry her not because she is “some kind of baby factory”. In his words, “I love you, not your procreating ability. So we have a problem. Well, we’ll learn to deal with it” (35). The story had already reached its predictable height of cliché earlier when he proclaimed, “No other woman can give me what you can—yourself, your love, your warmth, your sense of humor. All the facets of your personality that make up the final you […]. That’s what love is all about’” (34).

On the other hand, the reason for the sorrow of the nameless woman in Godwin’s story is not clearly stated. Readers will be tempted to read their versions of the story, as its events progress and lead to a totally unpredictable and tragic end. When the woman starts to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown, the husband tries his best to adjust to the new situation. He even sacrifices a lot of his time and energy to cook, clean and look after their son all by his own, while being a dutiful husband who looks after his wife’s health needs as well. However, there is no reference in the story where he tries to convince her of his love for her, other than through his actions. The woman is in fact convinced that he cares for her, but she cannot help but being a distant, indifferent wife and mother. It upsets her when her son shows the smallest sign of violence or carelessness towards her. She fires the girl who was hired to look after him because she upsets her too. When she realizes how hard her husband toils on a daily basis, she starts to come out of the room where she hid herself all day away from her husband and son. She does this when they are away, bakes bread for them, and leave it for them before she retreats to her room. One day she cooks a lot for them working harder than she should: “The man and boy came home and found five loaves of warm bread, a roast stuffed turkey, a glazed ham, three pies of different fillings, eight molds of the boys favorite custard, two weeks supply of fresh-laundered sheets and shirts and towels, two hand-knitted sweaters (both of the same grey color), a sheath of marvelous watercolor beasts accompanied by mad and fanciful stories nobody could ever make up again, and a tablet full of love sonnets addressed to the man”. However, they find her dead in her bed later. The story leaves the readers confused, but the range of emotions and their mysterious nature makes it a memorable story, filled with a lot of symbols. Even though it starts with an epitaph that reads like the beginning of a fairytale, it is clear from the start that it is not a formula story.