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Both stories “A Sorrowful Woman” by Gail Godwin and “A Secret Sorrow” by Karen van der Zee talk about women who struggle to fit in their personalities. They depict the unhappiness in their lives and how it affects them negatively. The stories have the titles that deals with sorrow to show the main theme of the stories that revolve around sorrowful feelings (Godwin). Both writers have the same idea of sorrow in mind, but they express it in different ways. In “A Sorrowful Woman,” the woman appears not to be identified. She experiences sorrowful emotions in her family, whereby she does not even speak with the family members. Contrary to the first story, in “A Secret Sorrow”, Faye, the main character of the story, appears to be unhappy because of the fact that she could not conceive any children. Thus, the main difference in the both stories is the fact that Faye dreams about a family, which the unidentified woman in the Gail’s story already has. They both experience sorrow for various reasons in the family set up (Zee).
The substantial and significant similarity of these two stories is the aspect of sorrow that mainly appears to be affecting the two women. The women have reached the age to have a family and settle their lives, but they could not come to terms with their personalities and lives, and they wished they could change. Faye in “A Secret Sorrow” wishes she could have children. In “A Sorrowful Woman”, Gail uses the protagonist as a woman who has already a husband and a son. Nevertheless, she seems to be fed up by the fact that she has a son and wants to leave that life and be alone. This can, however, be considered as a major difference for the two women, in that one has what the other woman desires to have.
In both stories, the sorrow experienced appears to involve family matters. Faye in “A Secret Sorrow” wants to have a complete family. She undergoes extreme sadness upon receiving the news that she could bear her husband, Kai, a child. She does not understand the reason why Kai continues to stay in a relationship with her despite her inability to bear children. She discusses with Kai her problem, and they attempt to find a solution. The woman in “A Sorrowful Woman” also addresses her problem to the husband. She does not feel happy with her family and prefers to be without it. She stays away from them in order to feel comfortable in the setup. Both women have understanding spouses who help them cope with their problems. This could serve as another similarity in the both stories.
In both stories, there exist children who have undergone sorrowful experiences in their lives. In “A Sorrowful Woman”, the son of the protagonist woman was sorrowful since he could not have a normal communication with the mother. The mother locked herself in the room and only communicated with the son and husband through the use of notes and drawings. The son could not write notes for the mother, and instead, he sent drawings, wishing the mother would understand what they meant. The mother rarely replied to the drawings, and this made the son feel sad. The boy felt like he did not belong to the family since he could not feel the mother’s love. Every child with a mother should feel the love in the family, as it happens to be the strongst. The son looked up to the father and a baby sitter as his second mother since the only mother was not there for him. The woman claims that the child makes her sick and that she would want to get rid of him. In “A Secret Sorrow”, Faye and Kai manage to resolve their problems and adopt three children. Faye believes that they might have undergone previous sorrowful moments in their lives. They would often experience nightmares of the suffering they had undergone in the past. Faye would see in their eyes that the children were sorrowful because of their previous sufferings in life. This draws similarities in the both stories of the sorrow the children undergo for the love of their parents. They both experience sadness due to lack of motherly love.
The husbands in both stories share the problems with their wives as a test of love. They also feel emotional since their wives cannot show their love fully due to the problems they are undergoing. They can be said to be sorrowful as a result of their wives’ sadness and sorrow. In “A Sorrowful Woman”, the husband attempts to confront the wife and tries to solve the problem. The husband attempts to take over the chores of taking care of the son in order to ease the problem for the woman. He even requests the services of the baby sitter while he goes to work in order for the woman to rest in her room. The husband appears to be worried about the wife’s condition as a response to the son. In “A Secret Sorrow”, Kai feels sad that the wife appears to be troubled because of the fact that she cannot bear him children. Faye even suggests to Kai that he should find another woman with the ability to give birth. Kai shows his concern by staying with Faye to the very end until they decide to get married. Kai undergoes a lot in convincing Faye that the inability to give birth should not be of any concern as long as they love each other. The loving and understanding men in both stories bring out another significant similarity.
Another aspect of similarity in both stories would be the fact that the sorrow experienced by both women is connected to love. They both suffer from love issues with their children and husbands. In “A Sorrowful Woman”, the woman appears to be suffering from love issues with her son. The son also suffers from love since he could not understand why his mother would not show him the love he needed. He had not done anything wrong that would result into the hatred his mother showed him. The husband understood the problem the woman was facing, but the soon could not comprehend it. The love of the husband helped save the situation of sorrow by being there for the wife. This shows the involvement of love in the sorrow the woman was facing. Similarly, in “A Secret Sorrow”, Kai shows his love by attempting to make Faye feel better about herself since her self-esteem seemed to have been diminished by her inability to give birth (Remender and Peck).
Faye and Kai struggle to live in acceptance with what they face until they decide to get married and adopt three children. Faye shows love to the children, and this helps her solve the problem she had been experiencing due to lack of children. The children also face their sorrow after they receive the love they had always wanted. In “A Sorrowful Woman” love did not lead to true happiness of the woman;; however, the husband of the woman at least tried to help his heart broken wife. She left the family and went to seek other ways of living, which led to negative results. The love of Kai, on the contrary, led to true happiness as they were able to become a real family in the end (Reid).
The sorrow in the both stories also largely affects the marriages of the women. There seems to be the temptation of withdrawal from the marriages. In “A Sorrowful Woman”, the woman feels fed up by the husband and child and even thinks of leaving them. She eventually leaves them and takes on her own life. The sorrow eventually destroys the marriage commitment. The husband appeared to be understanding in the beginning, but later he lost patience: nobody would comprehend why it appeared to be so hard for the woman to be a mother and wife. In “A Secret Sorrow”, the woman felt that it was unfair to Kai since they could not have their own children. Faye even told Kai to go and look for another woman who had the ability to make him happy by bearing children. According to vows in marriage commitments, the couple should stand strong together no matter the circumstances. Relationship between both couples can be said to have been put to test by the sorrow experienced by the women in the stories (Beresford).
Family is an important element in any society. However, ‘family’ appears to be the main cause of sorrow in both novels; hence, showing how many people value their families. Large number of women in the world value the child bearing activity as it gives them a sense of belonging. Once a woman gets to know that she cannot conceive, she should undergo counseling as it affects her emotional stability. This would be said to be the main reason as to why Faye was suffering from sorrow. It should also be noted that the decision to have a family should be treated with respect, and one should be ready for the responsibility. It requires plenty of sacrifice on the part of the family members. The woman in “A Sorrowful Woman” would be said to be irresponsible and selfish as he could not manage to take care of the family. She does not want to bear the responsibility of being a mother and wife to the family. This means that she was not prepared for having a family. This led to the sorrow she experienced, and yet it was her decision to raise a family with the husband. Therefore, the lack of knowledge about raising a family would be said to be a significant similarity in the both stories. If both women had been counseled beforehand, they would have accepted their lives and moved on with hope (Greer).
In conclusion, the both stories dwell on the sorrow of women in relation to their families. Their sorrow affects even other members of the family, as detailed above. Love appears to be a vital aspect in the stories since it helps deal with the sorrows the women experience. The sorrowful events in both stories appear to be similar in several ways. The woman in “A Sorrowful Woman” ended up sadly since she abandoned the family and went to seek other ways of living. Faye and Kai lived happily ever after since they managed to cope with their problems. Love and family relationship play a vital role in the stories, and as it is shown in “A Secret Sorrow,” the love will triumph if the couple try and solve their problems together.
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