Gail Godwin's short story "A Sorrowful Woman” depicts the life of a woman with a terminal illness in her final stage of life. The short story opens up with the wife looking at the husband and her child describing the husband as "durable, receptive, gentle; the child a tender golden three. The sight of them made her so sad and sick she did not want to see them ever again” (33). The statement of the wife portrays the sense that she is resentful for the husband's health. The word "durable” exposes to the reader that husband is strong and the wife begrudges him and the child, for she is ashamed and it pains her to see them healthy as her health is depreciating. .
A pivotal point to the insight of the story comes when the wife after going on a yelling rampage tells her husband "If only there were instant sleep” (33). The aspect of the wife's illness begins to take shape with her words to the husband and saying, an "instant sleep” as she yearns for an instant end on her life and to the misery she is putting her family through. The reader is introduced to the wife's concoction drink "a glass of cognac followed by a big glass of dark liquid” (33). The cognac, a French brandy, is seen as a home remedy for inducing the slumber of the wife along with taking the glass of dark liquid. The cognac and the glass of dark liquid can be viewed as a medical remedy to help subdue the pain she is going through during her final stages of the terminal illness.
The wife's frail condition becomes visible when her own son was delighted to she her up and moving about. Having not see the mother the children happily pretend to be a tiger and when she came a little to close to her son he accidentally scratched her. "A thin red line materialized on the inside of her pale arm and spill over into little beads” (34). The circumstance of an innocent play act turns unpleasant response as she yells, "Go away”.