Jack Hodgins displays a significant contrast in character between the husband and wife in “By the River”. Crystal Styan’s selfless and meek personality is evidently over powered by her narrow-minded spouse, Jim Styan. Their ambitions and desires in life are on completely different paths, making their marriage surprising. Every aspect involving life goals, care for tasks, and priorities differ between Crystal and Jim. The ambitions and desired lifestyles of Crystal and Jim are of two completely opposite ideas.
When Crystal was younger, she dreamt of going “to study at a university”. Jim disregarded this with his own desire for “a life on the road” (6) with no restrictions or structure. His need for the isolated farmer lifestyle had no room for Crystal’s city life dream.. While Crystal expected to have a baby in the near future, Jim would not give having a baby a second thought until his dream farm was established. Due to Jim’s ambitious ideas, he had an impulsive and careless way in doing things while Crystal proceeding carefully with caution.
The care put into the actions of Jim and Crystal are very opposite. Jim’s choice to start a farm on land with horrid farming conditions was not a very well thought out plan. In result to this and his lack of care, their animals had “frozen to death in the yard”. Crystal had grown up on her father’s farm, where everything had been properly treated and cared for. Because of this example, she learnt the proper and improper way in doing things. Jim’s impulsive idea to bring home a cow showed his carelessness and improper preparation skills.
The Loss of the cow was a result to his poor actions. Caution is showed by Crystal when her hair was “tied back so the branches [would] not catch in it” (3), and when “she holds her skirt up a little so it won’t be caught or ripped” (9) as she journeyed to the railroad to greet Jim. These two very different personality traits lead each person’s priorities to either be all about themselves or others. Jim’s selfish and narrow-minded thought process easily takes advantage of Crystal’s selfless and generous personality.
To fulfill his own dreams, Jim ent as far as convincing Crystal out of grade ten and ruined her chances of going to university. Crystal left her home, family and friends, protection, and dreams to accompany Jim on the road to his aspiration. “For him she had suffered” (37) a great amount, and received very little in return. Jim needed to have everything the way he wanted it, and gave minimum concern to the desires of his wife. Throughout the entire story, Hodgins repeatedly expressed Crystal’s excitement for the return of Jim, which shows the care she has for him.
In the end, when “Jim Styan is not on board” (42) the train, his true self-indulged personality is shown as he abandons his wife, the woman who gave up everything for him, in his unsuccessful dream. The lack of mutual support in this relationship is unacceptable and ended in an unjust fashion. The personality traits between Crystal and Jim contrast one another in multiple different ways. They do not compliment each other and resulted in an unhealthy relationship. The abandonment from Jim will set Crystal free from his overpowering personality and ambitions, and allow her to live her own life the way she wants to plan it.