A Sorrowful Woman is a selection written by Gail Godwin. Within this selection she shows how a marriage does not always lead to a perfect life. Godwin uses A Sorrowful Woman to portray modern marriages. A Sorrowful Woman is a parody of fairy tales.
The traditional fairy tale has a fixed resolution- everyone lives happily ever after. At the beginning of A Sorrowful Woman the reader is given the illusion of a happy story because it begins Once upon a Time (Godwin 33). In this story the ideal of a traditional fairy tale is mocked. The characters in this selection are not given names (Godwin 33); this signifies that the characters are playing a universal role. The epigraph at the beginning of story suggests that she was not meant to be a wife and a mother (Godwin 33). The reason for this conclusion is because once upon a time implies that she thought her life as a wife and mother would be perfect.
The sorrowful woman hit her child on purpose so that her husband would see it (Godwin 34). In a fairy tale the mother would be happy to spend time with her family. Godwin makes fun of fairy tales by having the characters do all the opposite things of characters in a fairy tale. When the sight of her family made her so gloomy and sick that she never wanted to see them again (Godwin 33).
There was nothing that would relieve the sorrowful woman of her depression. Her husband gives her a sleeping drought that further depresses her, instead of revitalizing her (Godwin 35). He seemed to be eager to do whatever he could to please his wife because he thought that would make her happy. In A Sorrowful Woman the wife dies instead of living happily ever after, which is quite the opposite of The Sleeping Beauty (Godwin 37). The sorrowful woman detests the fact that she has a husband and a child to tie her down. She wishes for the life of a single woman.
Instead of being happy with the fact that she has a helper to take care of her house and her family she becomes jealous (Godwin 36). A Sorrowful Woman is a reverse fairy tale (a version of The Sleeping Beauty gone wrong) for many different reasons. In The Sleeping Beauty the prince awakens the princess from her deep sleep with a kiss (Quiller-Couche 10). In The Sorrowful Woman the outcome is quite different. Combined with the fact that her husband is completely devoted to her. Instead of her husband pulling her out of her state of depression, he continues to give her a sleeping draught that allows her to eventually overdose (Godwin 37).
In The Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming s kiss of love yielded life for Sleeping Beauty (Quiller-Couche 10). It awoke Sleeping Beauty to revive her from the sleeping spell that had been cast on her (Quiller-Couche 10). The moral of A Sorrowful Woman and Sleeping Beauty is that marriage may be happiest when it is deferred because once an individual is married their life is not automatically going to be happily ever after. The sorrowful woman was not happy with her current condition of life so she sought to change it by staying away from her family (Godwin 37). She thought one night away would solve her problem, but she was wrong. Her husband found a girl to help her out, however, she was jealous (Godwin 34).
After the sorrowful woman fired the young girl and moved into her vacated room she became more of a recluse from her family (Godwin 35). When none of the solutions worked she found a permanent solution-suicide (Godwin 37). The traditional fairy tale tells of happy endings, problems that always work out for the best, enjoyable events, and a springtime that brings about rebirth. A Sorrowful Woman is just the opposite of a fairy tale. She is sad and depressed.
She can no longer bear to be around her family and take care of her household duties; therefore she stays away from her son and husband (Godwin 34). When she can no longer endure being in the world, she kills herself (Godwin 37). The short story by Godwin serves as a warning to say that marriage may be happiest when it is deferred because marriage does not always lead to eternal happiness. Modern marriages sometimes cause havoc and end disastrously.
Works Cited Goodwin, Gail. A Sorrowful Woman. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer.
5 th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin s, 1999. 33-37. Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur. Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales.
New York: Bantam, 1989. 2-12.