Life takes you through many rough patches. Worst of them all is the phase of divorce. Living with someone whom you adore, cherish and love for years believing in that one phrase “Till death do us part”, just to get hit by reality and lose it all within a matter of months, days or seconds.
That’s what we call a rough patch. Afterward, comes the part of letting go and moving on. This struggle is in a sense portrayed in Lisa Alward’s short story “Old growth” from 2017. Since Gwyneth and Ray’s divorce, they’ve still managed to keep in contact since they hold mutual interest within the field of real estate. Ray has recently just bought an old house and Gwyn has been invited to tag along on a road trip that might change their views on each other.
The names in this short story are not at all random. They have been chosen for a specific reason. For example, Ray who is always present in the story but somehow, he still manages to stay out of reach. It’s like these elusive sunrays that pierce the trees of the forest from above, shining down on the newly bought house.
On the other hand, we have the name Gwyneth which is heavier, complicated and stuck underneath the cover of the trees. By this, I am referring to the fact that she is carrying all the weight or perhaps even the burden of marital memory. Finally, we have the real estate agent Fern who can be interpreted symbolically.
The name fern represents several attributes such as confidence, love, and happiness. She is in the short story to keep it from turning into this depressing and dark storyline about a failed marriage.
Gwyneth is this mature yet insecure woman who suddenly finds herself joining her husband on this short journey together with his presumable new lover. This new lover is described as sexy, tall with bushy blond hair. She says quote “No doubt the younger and more attractive of the two agents on the island” (Line 7-10).
We aren’t informed of Gwyneth’s profession and therefore it’s difficult to interpret whether she is comparing herself with Fern or talking about a random stranger. Throughout the whole text, Gwyn when referring to herself speaks in the third person as a way of putting herself down. For example, the first encounter with the scintillating woman Fern.
Gwyneth looks down at her feet wondering why she’d paint her nails with the color purple. (Line 15) It’s like Gwyn keep searching for some kind of recognition from her husband but as she mentions (Line 29)