Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman”

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6 March 2016

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In the short story “From a Secret Sorrow” by Karen Van Der Zee a woman who struggles to tell her fiancé a truth that is killing her inside. The story focuses on two main characters, Faye and Kai. Faye is a woman who thought that the world was over for her after finding out she was infertile. Faye had no idea on how to communicate such horrendous news to Kai, her fiancé. She was afraid that her Kai was going to leave her and find someone else. She then started acting weird, nervous, and distanced herself from him. Her fiancé questioned her about a note he found, Faye immediately recognized that it was the note the doctor gave her and with a terrified voice asked “How did you get that?” (31). Finding out that she was infertile made her felt sorrow and like she was the only one who had the right to be upset. She thought that Kai was not going to love her anymore but it was the other way around. Kai seemed like he was really in love with her and cared about her. He wanted to let her know that whatever the problem was she was not alone, that it was not only her problem and that they will work together, then eventually get married. But Faye would not listen, she also loved him so much that she would have rather let him go instead of ruining his life with her knowing she is infertile. She knew he would be extremely disappointed and she told Kai that he had the choice to leave her and marry someone else. Kai continuously kept repeating Faye how much he loves her. Kai then asked “why should I be disappointed, Faye? Why?”(Van Der Zee 33). She felt like her heart thundering in her ears, she seemed like she was going to drown like if she could not breathe. Then she said “Because… because I can’t give you children! Because I can’t get pregnant! I can’t have babies! That’s why!”(Van Der Zee 33). Kai after the shocking secret that was been kept from him “He stared at her as if he had never seen her before” (Van Der Zee 33). Faye with her legs shaking, shortness of breathing and all these things on her head just ran away. Faye seems to struggle with some type of insecurity issues with her husband. After she ran away, Kai calls her house extremely worried about where she was just to make sure she got there safe. Chuck, someone who lived at home answers the phone and said that she was home fine. No matter how upset he was about what he just found out, he called to make sure she was safe.

A few minutes after she got home, Kai showed up to her room quietly, without knocking the door, and sat next to her. “He put his arms around her and drew her against him” and in a quietly voice said “Faye, please marry me” (Van Der Zee 34). Kai was obviously surprised for what Faye had told him, but he seemed to still care more about her than the fact that she cannot have children. However, Faye said “No” she stands up from the bed and got away from him. Faye felt like she was not enough for him because of the fact that she could not get pregnant. After moments of discussions Kai made her understand that it was not just her problem, that it was their problem as a couple. Faye still doubtfully said “how… can I ever believe it?” and Kai replay “Look at me, Faye. No other woman can give me what you can- yourself, your love, your warmth, your sense of humor….” (36). After Faye explained him word for word what the doctor said to her she said “So you see… we don’t have to hope for any miracles” Kai smiled and said “we’ll make our own miracles (36).” He then grabs her and kissed her. All of a sudden Kai went to her closet, opened the suitcases and began to pile all her clothes, he also opened the drawers, and took out all her things. Faye confused asks “What are you doing?” Kai ignore her for a min and then said “get dressed. We’re going home” Faye “Home…?” “Yes home- where you belong. With me in my house, in my bed in my arms (37)”. Kai had enough frustration with everything that had happened that he does not want to risk having any more problems. “You’re coming with me now. And I’m not letting you out my sight until we’re safely married (37).” Kai prose that if they can’t have children, there are a bunch of orphanages all over the world with children in need of a family. “Faye” he said “Your my first and only choice (38).”

Kai and Faye adopted 3 children, a boy a two girls. I seems like they were from Vietnam because she say they had small faces and large dark eyes full of fear. It was noticeable the tragedies of war, death and poverty in their eyes. Time passed and everything seem to be working out, the kid’s faces are full of joy as well as Kai’s eyes. Faye deeply inside knew that she was everything to Kai, “To hi, she was the only woman, beautiful, complete, whole (38).” The story “A Sorrowful Women” by Gail Godwin describes a woman that seems to be exhausted of her family and life. Unlike the first story, this is about a married couple who already have a child. The narrator does not give names to the characters and he/she engages on a third person role to tell the story. This story carries a depressing, sad and dark mood. The wife, one night tells her husband if he could “put the boy to bed and read him the story about the monkey who ate too many bananas(39)” since she was already tired of doing all the work at home. The husband thought she just needed a break, and he assume that there’s nothing wrong with the idea of taking care of the child, therefore he happily agreed to take care of the kid. Since that evening the husband noticed that his wife was being very distant from him his child. He notices that the reason of why she was so depressed was probably because of the child. The child was the one who brought her to this stage of sadness, to the point where she began to show aggressiveness in her and the people around her. The sight of her husband made her sad. One night as she looked at the child, she began “…yelping without tears, retching in between” (Godwin 41). Her husband takes her into his arms and he shows he had complete control over the situation. Her husband wants to find out what is wrong with her, and what he could do to make her feel better. In this story the husband portrays a different type of control that was showed in the first story “From a Secret Sorrow”. In a sorrowful woman the husband showed an understanding control, while Kai’s control is that he solves the problems. As the story goes on the Husband tries to assure his wife that he understand what she’s going through. While in the other story Kai tells Faye that his that he would never know how she really feels but he could try and help her.

In A Sorrow Woman the man behaves as if he is the protector of the woman, as if she is his queen I and he did anything that he could to keep her happy. The husband takes over her roles of the wife in the house, but he man soon got tired of all the thing he was doing at home and he decided to hired a girl to help out. The wife after seeing how the maid was doing everything for them and giving her child the love and attention he deserved she decided to fire her because she felt jealous. She did not want anyone to be affectionate with the child; it seems as if she even wanted the kid to suffer for something unexplained. She wanted the baby to feel alone, to not have anyone care for him or to show love towards him. Firing the maid is so selfish on the wife’s part because according to the book “the girls upsets me” (41), but really what made her upset was the love and care the girl was providing to her child and husband. Something she originally said she could not handle anymore. The wife was tired of seeing someone else do what she could not do herself. The girl who cried and said “I loved the little boy, what will become of him now?” (41). in this quote one could suggest that the boy was left alone, without love and attention. As if the girl knew the baby was going to suffer. The maid knew the mother did not want him or cared for him anymore, therefore she wanted her to think it over, to make sure if she really wanted the maid to leave. After the maid left the husband was the one to replace her, to go grocery shopping, to clean the house, to take care of his son and overall to do the things the maid was in charge of. The woman depression kept on getting bigger and bigger as time pass. She decided to move to the white room downstairs where the girl used to stay. She pretty much isolated herself from her family and everyone. The white room symbolizes emptiness, been unloved and voided by others. The woman as time passed did not even went out of the room anymore and everything had to be brought to her. Few weeks after been in the room, she woke up and decided to go and check her kitchen and realized that everything look different “New dish towels. The canisters seemed closer to the sink, a new brand of butter (Godwin, 43).”

The woman cooked, clean the house and did the laundry all in that same day, two weeks’ worth of work in just a couple of hours. After all the work the woman did she felt how her “veins pumped and her forehead sparkled.” Then she opens the cupboard and “took what was hers” (Godwin, 43). When the man and the boy came home and found cooked food, the house clean and all the laundry washed they were extremely surprise. The husband excited ran to the little white room and found her, the little boy said “Look, Mommy is sleeping”, the father right away notice that was not really sleeping. The father lay down on the bed and “his face into her fresh-washed hair” (Godwin, 43) In this story the mother was obviously tired of the role of a housewife. She became so distant with her family up to the point that she isolated herself in a little room downstairs. She blame the children for feeling the way she feels. She did not wanted anyone to give the child love because for her he basically ruined her life. She loved her husband but at time she felt like she was not part of the family. At the end she decided to cook and clean the house for the last time and then took her own life. In Both stories “A Sorrowful Woman” and “A Secret Sorrow” the narrator talks about a woman who struggle to fit in their family environment. They portray unhappiness in their lives and how this is affecting them. The tittle of the two stories fix perfectly since the theme of both deals around sorrowful emotions. Even both narrators have the same idea of sorrow they express it in different ways. For example in A Sorrowful Woman the woman The stories have the titles that deals with sorrow to show the main theme of the stories that revolve around sorrowful feelings (Godwin). 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). It is very important to clearly see the differences between these two stories. One might judge the stories by the title, by the fact that they both have to do with sorrow. That cannot be done because these two stories acquaint us with totally different types of sorrowful situations. The women from the two stories have very different reason for their fear and sorrow. Faye, from the first story mourns over the fact that she will not be able to have her own kids and if she marries Kai then she will be a disappointment to him for her inability. In the second story the woman fears of her role as a wife, she decides that she has had enough of raising a child. She wants to abandon her duties as a wife and become carefree person as she once was. She wants to start loving herself over anyone else, to live a self-centered life doing things that she wants to do. The reason she killed herself was because of the lonesomeness and worthlessness she felt living her life for herself. The men supported their women in very different ways. Had the man from the second story supported his wife same as Kai supported Faye, his wife might have gotten better and returned to her family. Kai supported Faye in two very important ways, physically, and emotionally. Physically, Kai supported her with his strong bronze hands that represent strength and endurance. Kai supported her emotionally by repetition of the fact that he loves her and that no matter what they will go through this together. In the second story, the man supports his wife only physically as he carries her, undresses her, brings her drought. If only the man in the second story tried to connect with her emotionally, try to talk with her about how she feels, and try to find ways how to solve this problem without going public, he might have made her feel needed.

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StudyScroll. (2016). Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman” [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 10 June, 2023]

"Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman”" StudyScroll, Mar 6, 2016. Accessed Jun 10, 2023.

"Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman”" StudyScroll, Mar 6, 2016.

"Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman”" StudyScroll, 6-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 10-Jun-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Compare and Contrast of “From a Secret Sorrow” and “A Sorrowful Woman”. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 10-Jun-2023]

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