Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

2
Adolescent Retreat

Out of childhood, Nan Prince is transfigured into an atypically free adolescent. Her trauma is minimal; her path is set. In fact, the chapter describing Nan's decision to become a doctor and her entrance into medical school is entitled "A Straight Course". Jewett's own decision to become a writer was equally apparent and secure. At times, Jewett's course could only be chosen by ignoring or escaping from the demands placed upon her by school, church, and home. Whether Jewett acted subversively or impulsively, she was able to retreat from the expectations society placed upon women. Jewett, like Nan, was able to carry her childhood freedom with her into adolescence and beyond.

As an adult, Jewett's frequent, unabashed references to herself as a child are well known. Frequently, she refers to her activities as playing and to her friends and relatives as playmates. To Horace Scudder, she wrote, "I'm not a bit grown up if I am twenty, and I like my children's books just as well as I ever did, and I read them just the same" ( Matthiessen, 35). When she was forty-eight, Sarah Jewett told Annie Fields, "This is my birthday and I am always nine years old" ( Fields, 125). Both Richard Cary ( Jewett, 19) and Eugene Hillhouse Pool (503-9) view this tendency as an emotionally regressive desire to remain a child. Pool erroneously stipulates. "It is the passionless, or

-35-

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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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