Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

Introduction
Jewett's "Housebreaker" versus Ruskin's "Queens": Liberation from the Victorian Home and Garden

Sarah Orne Jewett was a Victorian woman, subject to the socialization process of her time. Yet she repudiated the belief of her era that women could occupy only a narrow, separate sphere. In her life and work, Jewett rejected the Victorian concept of "the angel in the house," a term coined from Coventry Patmore's poem of the same title, which has come to mean a vaporous upholder of spiritual values and familial bliss within the confines of the home. John Ruskin enlarged upon this definition in his 1865 essay "Of Queens' Gardens," which Walter E. Houghton assessed as "the most important single document . . . for the characteristic idealization of love, woman, and home in Victorian thought" (343). Basically, woman's work to Ruskin entailed providing a haven of moral and spiritual values away from the money-hungry commercial world. In order to accomplish the task, woman had to be protected from any contact with that outside world so she could remain untainted. Her sphere was "a place apart, a walled garden, in which certain virtues too easily crushed by modern life could be preserved, and certain desires of the heart too much thwarted be fulfilled" ( Houghton, 343).

Yet unrestricted by patriarchal fences, Jewett's women characters break out of the Victorian home and garden. True, Jewett regrets the passing of the Puritan grandmothers' gardens, which

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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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