Sarah Orne Jewett: Reconstructing Gender

By Margaret Roman | Go to book overview

Afterword

The Country of the Pointed Firs signifies a future where a woman's nuturing dimension is tantamount to survival as a human species. What it does not propose is that this future take place in a female utopian realm. Jewett was not in favor of a world separate and silent. Separation means division; it reinforces binary oppositions. Such an isolated stance would leave women without a voice and, ultimately, without any political power in society at large.

While Jewett's characters are embroiled in a struggle against industrial, patriarchal values and, even at times, crushed and consumed by the sexually divisive system, Jewett shows that they can defy the cultural assignations. It is possible to release oneself from the straightjacket of gender. Jewett challenges the historical polarized gender system, and in her writings, she heralds the present-day view that there are no natural gender characteristics.

Jewett perceives the crippling effects of rigid gender roles, and then she looks beyond this polarization of men and women. Her characters are equipped to share that vision. Jewett would be inclined to agree with Monique Wittig, who proffers that "a new personal and subjective definition for all humankind can be found beyond the categories of sex (man and woman) and that the advent of individual subjects demands first destroying the

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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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