Caren J. Deming
Miscegenation themes in popular western literature spring from a complex of traditional American assumptions. These assumptions have to do with differences among the races and between the sexes. Fitted neatly together, these racial and sexual assumptions provide a tidy -- if somewhat elaborate-defense for a double standard concerning miscegenation. This paper examines some of the assumptions behind that double standard and shows how they manifest themselves in works by several western writers.
The first assumption has anatomical roots. Women, and particularly white women in America, have assumed a "receptacle" function where the culture is concerned. Bearing the white civilization to the frontier, their main function was to preserve it. Willa Cather understood this idea well, giving it extensive development in O Pioneers! The narrator describes Mrs. Bergson:
Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. . . .When there was nothing more to preserve, she began to pickle. . . .She had never quite forgiven John Bergson for bringing her to the end of the earth; but, now that she was there, she wanted to be let alone to construct her old life in so far as that was possible. She could still take some comfort in the world' if she had bacon in the cave, glass jars on the shelves, and sheets in the press. 1
England's Lord Bryce observed American women as preserversif not picklers -- of the culture too: "In a country where men are incessantly occupied at their business or profession, the function