Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

4
Paralyzed Men

Frequently, Jewett scholars have cited her male characters as malformed human beings. Polar opposites, these men are generally either weak or malicious. Most often, they are flawed precisely because they are proponents of Victorian industrial society, a society that upholds the amassing of material goods as a way of life. Greed and the desire for power have maimed these men to the point where some are barely recognizable as human. In all cases, this egoistic desire to accumulate has stunted the men's emotional growth. Estranged and estranging, they continue with their obsessions either in a lackluster fashion or in a madly driven state.

Pervading Jewett's fiction is the familiar scene of the old sea captains sitting on the rotting wharves, reminiscing about the good old days when shipping was at its peak. Warner Berthoff explains that there were no men or only poorly depicted men in Jewett's writing because all the capable men had gone from New England to the world of progress (149). True, the shipping industry had declined, but Jewett is commenting on more than an economically depressed area of the country. Similarly, she is drawing attention to more than old sea captains who are unable to change with the times and so spend their days living in the past, complaining of a once fruitful existence. Jewett's captains have the same disease as the rest of industrial society. They are

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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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