Saw From Where I Stood by Marisa Silver offers a lot to women's literature. Firstly, it is an effectively told story, with the literary techniques of the story making it an important piece of literature, regardless of its themes. Secondly, the themes are important to women. Thirdly, it offers a new perspective as it is told from a man's point-of-view. Finally, we can compare it to another important story, A Sorrowful Woman by Gail Godwin. By comparing the two stories we can see both the similarities between the two stories and also the unique features of What I Saw From Where I Stood.
Firstly, we can look at the story as an example of an excellent short story regardless of its place in women's literature. The literary techniques throughout the story are both effective and powerful. The first noticeable thing is that the real subject of the story is told through flashbacks. We see the husband coping with the aftermath of their stillborn child. The story begins with the car accident and robbery as the main event. As the story continues though, there are glimpses that this is not the real event in the story. The first brief mention of it is when they are at a red light near the hospital, "We hit a red light at Vermont, right next to the hospital where Dulcie lost the baby a year ago." We are then given a factual account of the event. In this description there is only a hint of the emotion that lies behind the event, "Dulcie looked up at the hospital and then back at the road. She's a small girl, and she sank behind the wheel, getting even smaller."
Further mentions of the stillborn baby then occur throughout the story. This is an effective technique in creating interest in the story. At the same time, the events in the current time are given greater significance, as we come to realize how the stillborn baby remains in their minds.
The final mention of the stillborn describes the scene most emotionally, "When the doctors took the baby out of her, they handed him to me without bothering to clean him up; I guess there was no point to it. Every inch of him was perfectly formed. For a second, I thought he would open his eyes and be a baby." First of all, this scene itself is highly emotional. The sadness of it is emphasized by the way the baby is described as being taken out of her. This is in contrast to what we would expect of a baby being born. The part where he says he thought he would open his eyes and be a baby, also emphasizes that this is not a baby. This shows us effectively how the moment they were looking forward to became something else.
The other important thing about the flashbacks is that we follow Dulcie and her husband on their journey. Just as the reader is only informed of the events as the story progresses, we can see how the husband slowly comes to terms with the events. The emotions of the characters are therefore shared by the reader, creating a greater connection and understanding of the story.
We also see that the story contains several effective symbols. The rats in the wall is an important one in that it is symbolic of the lost baby. Just like the baby it cannot be seen but its effect can be felt and there is no easy way to eradicate this. We see that the rats enter the story after Dulcie reacts to the robbery. The landlord's words "you'll be living with that rat forever" have extra meaning when we consider the symbolism. The impact of the symbolism is most clear when the husband says, "as if we weren't living like some rat trapped in our own wall." This is a reference to them being trapped by their own memories that they are unable to deal with. At the end of the story we see that the rat has disappeared, "We listened for the rat, but he wasn't there."
The second major symbol is the mattress. This mattress represents the marital bed and also represents the relationship between Dulcie and her husband. When Dulcie moves the mattress into the bedroom on the surface she does this from fear of being robbed, but there is a greater meaning behind this. The bed is the place where children are conceived and not wanting to sleep in the bedroom means that she is unable to face this. The conclusion comes at the end of the story when the husband decides to take control. The first thing he does is move the mattress back into the bedroom, "I got home before Dulcie, I dragged the mattress back into the bedroom." We then see how their relationship begins to return to normal, "I reached for her. At first it was awkward, as though we were two who had never had sex with each other. Truthfully, I was half ready for her to push me away." From this ending of the story we see hope in that they can overcome the memories of their tragedy and move on with their lives.
The theme of the story deals with the loss of a child. The one thing that is clear throughout the story is that there is never a break from this trauma. The story offers a perspective on coping with the situation from the male point-of-view. We see how this memory is with him at all times, with everything a reminder of it. After the robbery, he tells us how Dulcie deals with things and how she dealt with the death of the baby is incorporated. We also see how contact with his wife reminds him, "She lay down next to me. I turned over on my stomach and laid my hand across her chest. I liked the feel of the small rises of her breasts, the give of them. Dulcie's milk had come in two days after the delivery." This is one example of how his thoughts on the present lead to thoughts of the past, something that occurs throughout the story. At the same time, we see little conversation where he discusses the child or how they are coping. For female readers, this is important, as it shows how while he is not discussing it on the surface, he is thinking about it. We also see he is constantly aware of how Dulcie may react, "Dulcie hadn't bought up the idea of having kids since we'd lost the baby. She had just stepped on a grenade, and I was waiting through those awful seconds before it explodes." The themes of the story are important to women as they offer a view on what it is like in the aftermath of losing a child. The themes are also relevant to women as they show the male-female relationship as they adjust to any type of trauma.
The story is different from many others in that it shows us the suffering wife through the eyes of her supportive husband. This unique angle gives the female reader a view of how they may be perceived during the grieving process as well as showing a males reaction. At the same time, it must be remembered that it is really giving the male point-of-view, as the female author sees it.
Finally, we can compare the story to another important story of women's literature, A Sorrowful Woman. The major difference in the story is the effect of the husband. In What I Saw From Where I Stood the supportive husband finds the strength to pull his wife out of suffering. In A Sorrowful Woman we are told that the husband is…