How does this story resemble or differ from others you may have read on a similar topic--e. g. Elizabeth Gaskell's "Lizzie Leigh"? What is its subject? To what does the title refer?
Who is the first person mentioned in the story? (Irish sailor lonely for home)
From whose point of view is the story told? Why do you think this particular narrator was chosen?
What effect is created by the suppression of the name of "the girl"?
What do we learn about her life and past? (misses Ireland, prefers Europe to the United States, dislikes urban life, lives plain, mostly solitary life) What kind of information is omitted? (e. g., her occupation, reasons for journey to U. S.)
What do you make of the fact that she is called “the girl,” and the young woman in distress “the lady,” when the former may be older than the latter?
What is unusual about the narrative voice, if anything? (e. g., change of tenses) What effect is created by the use of imagery and the placement of actions in the present tense?
Apart from serving as narrator, what role does she serve in the story?
How are color tones used in the story? Is there any significance to the fact that the distressed woman is called "Mrs. Grey"?
How is our view of Edith affected by the presentation of "the girl"'s reaction to her? Would a different effect have been created had she been hostile?
What is added to the plot by including the shipboard journey? The mention of the sailors and the cattle? (one of former dies, the latter suffer) The narrator's attention to animals throughout?
What are some unusual topics treated by the story? What elements are emphasized in its portrayal of forced abortion/infanticide? Of alcoholism?
Can you think of other works, earlier or later, which deal with the pressures for and psychological effects of undesired abortion?
What do we know about Edith’s life circumstances and past history?
What is added to the story by the account of the reactions to both women of others on the ship? (social ostracism makes it harder for outsider to cope) What is meant by "the girl"'s accusations against the unmarried women passengers who express concern for her future?
Under what circumstances does “Mrs. Grey” lose her child, and what is her reaction?
What are some of the most vivid scenes of the story? (“Mrs. Grey”’s dejection during the storm, her account of her grief at horror at the murder of her child)
What purpose is served by the several artistic and musical references? (we should view these events, and Edith, within the framework of artistic sympathy) What effect is served by the allusion to Mary Magdalene? (biblical authority for forgiveness)
Was “Mrs. Grey” redeemable, and if so, what alternate circumstance would have aided her? (life of her child; cmp. Augusta Webster’s “A Castaway”)
What views do “the girl” (and presumably the author) hold on the moral value of motherhood?
Do you think this story gives a realistic account of the circumstances which lay behind late nineteenth-century prostitution? The commerce in infant murder?
If Edith is atypical, why might she have been chosen for the subject of a story?
How are we expected to view Edith’s refusal to accept her former lover's conditions for granting her aid? (an attempt at independence)
Under what conditions does “the girl” last encounter Edith? What seems to have happened to her? (very sick, deformed by poverty and perhaps disease)
How does Edith respond to the sight of “the girl,” and to her entreaties? Why does she refuse help?
Can you think of any other work of Victorian literature in which a prostitute refuses the offers of help made to her? (Esther in Mary Barton; here too she declares that she is now too dependent on alcohol to reform)
What are features of the story's style? Are any of the issues it raises still relevant?