Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

Preface

In her fiction, Sarah Orne Jewett consciously collapses gender dichotomies. She, in effect, dissolves the binary oppositions of gender, of the polarities termed woman and man. Sometimes the discontent with this polarity is a peripheral fragment that exists as a quiet backdrop to a Jewett story, barely noticeable; often it erupts as the central issue. In all cases, there is a movement within the text to break from rigid gendered thinking.

While Jewett preferred rural values to those of the industrial system, there is more at issue here than her nostalgia for a country way of life that was fast disappearing. I see this condemnation of the industrial rise in Jewett as a cry against the separate spheres for women and men emphasized during her Victorian time period. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg defines "The True Woman and the Common Man" as

twin mythic constructs of the emerging male middle class, [which] assured that their newly constructed social and economic arrangements were in fact timeless, rooted in the biology of man's competitive and woman's nurturant natures. They simultaneously rationalized and symbolized the fragmentation of old unities: the radical separation of home and work, of private and public, of producer and capitalist. They embodied identifiable norms of legitimate bourgeois behavior. ( "Writing History," 40)

-ix-

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Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - Jewett's "Housebreaker" Versus Ruskin's "Queens": Liberation from the Victorian Home and Garden 1
  • I - Escape and Denial 19
  • 2 - Adolescent Retreat 35
  • 3 - Fairy Godmothers 55
  • II - No Escape: The Acceptance of Dual Norms 63
  • 4 - Paralyzed Men 67
  • 5 - Aristocratic Women 81
  • 6 - Romance 97
  • 7 - The Standard Marriage 115
  • III - Breaking Free 131
  • 8 - Sexual Transformation 135
  • 9 - Women Unrestrained 141
  • 10 - Redeemed Men 159
  • 10 - Redeemed Men 182
  • 11 - The Postponed Marriage 183
  • 12 - "A White Heron": Symbolic Possibilities for Androgyny 197
  • 13 - Beyond Gender: The Country of the Pointed Firs 207
  • Afterword 229
  • List of Abbreviations 231
  • Select Bibliography 233
  • Index 241
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