Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

13
Beyond Gender The Country of the Pointed Firs

Jewett's narrator in The Country of the Pointed Firs could easily be Sylvia grown-up, a participator in "the vast and awesome world." But in her final book, Jewett lights on the dilemma of remaining in touch with one's nurturing dimension while becoming a part of patriarchal society. The narrator is a writer who appears to have subsumed more about the world of men than the world of women. It is time for "The Return" (the title of the first chapter) to her true center. Donovan envisions this women's realm as a type of matriarchal Christianity built on the transcending powers of women's friendships; Folsom speaks of a participation in others' lives through the powers of empathic imagination; and Pryse describes a return to mother and mother's powers, as does Sherman in her elucidation of the Demeter/Persephone myth.

Yet Dunnet Landing is more than a place to "return" to female nurturance. Out of society's space and time, Dunnet Landing is a place wherein the allocation of gender roles is called into question. With some characters, in fact, it is sometimes hard to tell who is a man and who is a woman by society's standards for male and female qualities and patterns of behavior. William and Captain Tilley act more like women than men. Joanna in her rigidity mirrors men's method of dealing with per-

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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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