The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study

By B. Malinowski | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER III
HUSBAND AND WIFE

IT may be said that marriage in either of its forms makes the woman the property of her husband. We must, of course, carefully define the word "property." This we shall do by analyzing the economic duties of the woman, the sexual rights of the husband, and in general, the limits of marital authority, and the features of the treatment applied by a native to his wife. As the economic aspect will be better described below, in connection with the family life in general (including relations of parents to children), I shall here pass briefly over this point, remarking that the economic function of a wife is most important in the aboriginal life. She has to provide the regular food supply, to undertake the drudgery of camp life, the care of the children and all household implements, especially on marches. There remains the sexual aspect of marital life and the authority of the husband, including the treatment of the wife.

Let us turn to the latter question and pass in review some statements illustrating the general character of the marital:relations; the limits of the husband's authority and power; the actual use he makes of his authority, i.e. the treatment of the family; and last, but not least, what idea may be deduced from our evidence as to the feelings of the two consorts towards each other. On this subject few reliable statements will be found and even these will be rather contradictory. And it would be unreasonable to expect anything else. We are asking here not for a report of plain facts, but for a judgment

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