A Book of Modern Essays

By Bruce Welker McCullough; Edwin Berry Burgum | Go to book overview

THE POLITICS OF MARTHA AND OF MARY*

ALFRED E. ZIMMERN

(Much of the literature of protest in America during the past few years has left its readers doubtful and uncertain. That the writers were dissatisfied was clear enough. The reason for their dissatisfaction was not always so clear. The following paper provides a point of view which helps to clarify the problem and give added meaning to such social criticism as has appeared in Main Street and The Spoon River Anthology. It has been our failure to distinguish between the realm of Martha and the realm of Mary that has brought disaster.

What is this distinction? The things of Martha, we are told, are rooted in the common life of man in society. The "better things" that Mary cared for are rooted in the inner life of the individual. One represents the world of practical affairs, where organization and standardization become increasingly necessary with the growing complexity of modern industry. The other is the realm of the individual human soul, where personal feelings and attachments, unreasoning instincts and emotions, largely hold sway. To ignore the realm of Mary means poverty in our inner life. To try to apply to it the standards of practical efficiency that apply to the realm of Martha means starvation and distortion. Mr. Sherwood Anderson, in revolting against the tyranny of machines ("To serve a machine is to become a machine") pays scant homage to the world of practical necessity. But the demands of the body must be met as well as the demands of the soul. The philosopher must have his dinner. How is one to bring about, in his own life, harmony between external standards of worldly success and the demands of inner satisfaction and

____________________
*
From the Century Magazine, Vol. 106, 1923.

-397-

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A Book of Modern Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • "Highbrow" and "Lowbrow" 1
  • What is a Puritan? 17
  • Portrait of a Family 45
  • The Norwegian Migration to America 63
  • The West and American Ideals 79
  • The Once Open Road 101
  • Sentimental America 113
  • Louisiana: (Madame de la Louisiane) 127
  • Fez 141
  • The Rhythm of Life 147
  • Summer 153
  • On an Unknown Country 161
  • Ideals and Day-Dreams 169
  • Castles in Spain 187
  • Science and the Faith of the Modern 201
  • On Friendship 219
  • A Relic 225
  • The Cheerful Breakfast Table 235
  • Conversation 249
  • Trivia 259
  • On Jargon 265
  • Names Practical and Poetic 285
  • The American Language 297
  • What the American Rhodes Scholar Gets from Oxford 321
  • Literary Taste 339
  • Dickens 347
  • The Vicar of Wakefield 365
  • Don Quixote 373
  • The Novel Démeublé 389
  • The Politics of Martha and of Mary 397
  • Autumn Tints in Chivalry 419
  • Index of Authors 431
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