1. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.
This quotation appears after Louise has gone alone to her room to deal with the news of Brently’s death. After an initial fit of tears, Louise looks out her window at the wide-open spaces below. This quotation is our first hint that Louise’s reaction to Brently’s death will be surprising and that Louise is very different from other women. Whereas most women would gaze reflectively at the sky and clouds, Louise’s gaze suggests something different, something shrewder or more active. What she sees as she gazes out the window is different from what other women would likely see after their husbands have died. Not long after this passage, Louise acknowledges the joyous feeling of independence that Brently’s death has given her. Here, at the window, the first breaths of these feelings are stirring, and her “intelligent thought” will quickly engage once again as she processes these feelings and allows herself to analyze what they mean.
2. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.
This quotation appears close to the end of the story, just before Louise leaves her bedroom to go back downstairs, and illuminates the extent of Louise’s elation. Before Brently’s death, Louise viewed her life with trepidation, envisioning years of dull, unchanging dependence and oppression. The “shudder” she felt was one of dread. Now, however, she is free and independent, and her life is suddenly worth living. Whereas she once hoped life would be short, she now prays for a long, happy life. This passage, besides showing us how fully Louise feels her independence, also highlights the unexpectedness of Louise’s reaction. Rather than dread a life lived alone, this solitude is, for Louise, reason enough to anticipate the future eagerly. When Brently returns, she dies, unable to face the return of the life that she’d dreaded so much.