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2. Starve, eh? Well, things had to be fed. Men had to be fed, and the horses that weren’t any good but maybe could be traded off, and the poor thin cow that hadn’t given any milk for three months.
Horses, cows, pigs, dogs, men.

In these lines, which appear at the end of Part II, the old woman reacts with “a look of mild surprise in her eyes” to the butcher’s admonishment to keep the meat he has sold her from her husband and son. The passage represents the extent to which the woman has come to accept her position in life. She no longer questions or is surprised by her fate: she understands that, no matter how futile her attempts, she cannot stop feeding those who depend on her to do so. The final line of the passage emphasizes how, in the absence of any demonstrable love or affection from her husband and son, the two men have ceased to become fully human in her eyes: nothing separates them from the animals in her care.

The reference to the “horses that weren’t any good” and “the poor thin cow” with no milk also reminds us that the woman, like the farm animals, is a creature defined by her ability to perform work. Like these animals, the woman cannot (or perhaps chooses not to) look beyond her given role, and her resolute dedication to her responsibilities is both pathetic and admirable. The harsh nature of Mr. and Mrs. Grimes’s shared existence ends up dehumanizing each of them in turn.