The Widow’s Might by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In The Widow’s Might by Charlotte Perkins Gilman we have the theme of independence, struggle, control, freedom, determination and duty. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Gilman may be exploring the theme of independence. Mrs McPherson since her husband’s illness and eventual death has become more independent in her life. While she was caring for her husband she was also managing the ranch and turning her efforts into a profit. This may be important as Mrs McPherson does not appear to have had an easy life with her husband nor have the children but she felt as though it was her duty to remain in the marriage despite the struggles that she endured. It may also be important that the children have already in their minds decided on the course of action to take when it comes to their mother. It is as though they do not believe that she can either take care of herself or that she has the ability to make up her own mind when it comes to how she should live her life after Mr McPherson’s death. If anything the children wish to control their mother.

It is also interesting that rather than being sad about her husband’s death Mr McPherson feels a sense of freedom. She now has the opportunity, without feeling under obligation to anybody, to live her life as she chooses. It may also be significant that Mr McPherson prefers to travel rather than spend time with her family. It may not be a case that Mrs McPherson is being cold but rather she is being realistic. She has done everything that has been expected of her when it comes to raising a family and is fully conscious that her family now have their own families. The fact that Mrs McPherson is prepared to honour her husband’s will. Even though she is not legally obliged to do so is also interesting as it suggests that Mrs McPherson though she may not be affectionate towards her children is showing them the same practicality that they were prepared to show her when they were arranging what to do with her. Each character in the story knows they have a duty to one another and each seems prepared to honour this duty.

It might also be important that Mrs McPherson shows the same practicality when it comes to her husband’s death as she shows her children. Something that is symbolically noticeable by the fact that she lets light into the room when the discussion of what is to happen occurs. Rather than pitying herself Mrs McPherson is determined to get on with her life and to do so under her own terms. Now that things have changed Mrs McPherson’s main priority is herself. Something which some critics might consider to be selfish. However it might be important to remember that Mrs McPherson has not had an easy life and moving into one of her children’s homes would be a discomfort to her. She wants to live her life and not be a burden on her children. For the first time in her life Mrs McPherson is able to put herself first and to do so without having to feel guilty. Something that may not have been possible while she was married and raising children. At the time the story was written (1911) it would have been deemed inappropriate by society for a married woman to think of herself and forgo what would have been considered her social obligations.

What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the children don’t attempt to discourage Mrs McPherson’s actions. It is as though they are happy that they are to receive what they believe they are entitled to. There is no necessity for them to look after their mother. Which may in reality have been a hindrance to the children. Just as Mrs McPherson adhered to any obligation that she might have had as a wife or mother. The children do not have to perform the same duty. If anything each character is free to live their lives as they see fit. Something that the reader senses suits each character. There is also a sense that Mrs McPherson is saying goodbye to her children and that she has no intention of returning home. To either live with her children or to visit them. If anything Mrs McPherson’s resilience in life and her ingenuity have ensured that she can live the rest of her life as a free and independent woman. Reliant on nobody but herself. Something that many women at the time would have struggled to achieve due to the societal norms that existed. Rather than being a grieving widow. Mrs McPherson has found a new lease of life.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Widow’s Might by Charlotte Perkins Gilman." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 6 Sep. 2018. Web.


  • its was interesting to read

  • pls can u give a list of points on the themes of duty independence freedom and control

  • i have another question What impressions does Gilman’s writing create of Mrs. McPherson

  • Yo, a very thoughtful analysis and extremely helpful as well. Great summary with precise points. Tomorrow’s my exam of English literature, and let’s just say i owe you. Keep publishing cause you have very good writing skills.

  • What would you say was the climax of the story?

  • do they mention how each characters in the text is being portrayed

  • thank you for this !!

  • May I have the chapter itself please. I want to read it as well, but can’t find it anywhere on the internet.

  • Grateful literature student

    Thank you, this was very helpful!

  • I am not sure (I need to re-read the story) but I believe that Mrs McPherson doesn’t ‘honour her husband’s will’ completely (like you wrote in the second paragraph) as the property had been put into her name so the property is not inherited by the son. From my memory, she comes up with the solution of the house being continued to be used as a convalescence / nursing home while she goes off travelling – the money earned from the rent is divided between her children.

    • I do not believe so, since Mrs McPherson says, “your father’s property amounted to about $8000 when he died, that would be $4000 for James, and $2000 to each of the girls.” This value Mrs McPherson is willing to part with and give to her children, however she is keeping the ranch so as to maintain her own living, i do not believe this is considered being undutiful, if anything she is more dutiful than she truly needs to be. Hence I believe Mrs McPherson honours her husband’s will.

  • how does gilman critically portray the relationship between parents and the children in “The Window’s Might”? can u pls answer this

  • Thanks for your help! I got decent grades in English Literature because of this analysis of Widow’s Might!

  • Whats the childrens names

  • I need the full story itself. Pls.

  • Bro u wont believe how much this helped me. I was so stressed that i wouldn’t do good in English exam but this helped me
    Thank you

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