Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

3
Fairy Godmothers

To counteract women's lack of power in society, Jewett employs one fanciful method to exercise a type of wish-fulfillment in the appearance of the figure of the fairy godmother. Within an arena of positive escapism, Jewett endows women with total control. In evaluating Jewett story "A White Heron," several have commented upon its fairy-tale quality. Given the choice between the heron and the hunter for her prince, critics aver, Sylvia would have chosen the bird. "A White Heron" is not the only story with elements of the fairy tale. In an appreciable number of others, Jewett replaces the prominent position occupied by the prince with the fairy godmother. Nan Prince of A Country Doctor envisions her long lost aunt in this role: "It seemed possible to Nan that any day a carriage drawn by a pair of prancing horses might be seen turning up the land, and that a lovely lady might alight and claim her as her only niece. . . . the dreams of her had been growing longer and more charming, until she seemed fit for a queen, and her unseen house a palace" (66). No longer does the fairy godmother of the Cinderella tale merely aid the young woman in adhering to a heterosexual dream; she now occupies center stage to provide opportunities for relief from stressful outside limitations. The kindly, compassionate, and powerful fairy godmother becomes woman's queen and savior.

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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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