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3. A thing so complete has its own beauty.

This line appears near the end of the story, when the narrator claims that both he and his brother were too young to really get the point of the old woman’s death. It is unclear what exactly the word thing refers to in this sentence. On one hand, it suggests the woman’s life, which has now been “completed.” Although the woman’s existence was one of pain and suffering, death gives us perspective on her life. By taking a step back from the harshness of her day-to-day existence, we can better appreciate the woman’s essential humanity. Previously, her life was characterized by intense lack. As a complete entity, however, it achieves a wholeness and integrity that makes it both perfect and beautiful.

The word complete implies something that is closed off and, therefore, fixed and unchangeable. Death becomes a protective barrier for the woman, who finds peace when she is no longer subject to the abuse of others. The image of the woman’s corpse—the same image that has lodged in the narrator’s memory and that he has spent years trying to make sense of—can also be understood as a “complete,” sealed object that possesses “its own beauty.” The story’s central symbol remains mysterious and cryptic and therefore alluring to the narrator. The fact that the image seems to keep its own secrets lends it an air of beauty.