From Domestic Bliss to Reformist Enlightenment: A Study of Domestic Life and Social Actions of Women in Phelps’s The Silent Partner and Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance

Christina M. Hedding, The College at Brockport

Description

Keywords: Sentimentalism, Women's Rights, Hawthorne, Phelps, Virtue vs Value, Public Speaking, Female Activists, Domestic Happiness

This presentation will discuss the sentimental nature of two novels from the nineteenth century whose heroines both give up the conventional path to female happiness, namely marriage and domestic life, in favor of reformist platforms. In Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s The Silent Partner and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, Perley and Zenobia are both unconventional women in their times. The central argument of this essay is that in a century where only one path was written out for women, any woman who strived for something other than marriage had to denounce her path to domestic happiness. Perely and Zenobia cannot live lives’ of domestic bliss due to their social reformist awakenings. The struggles of their fellow citizens appear to enlighten them and spark their interest in something more important than serving a husband. Perley acts out against her surroundings in favor of something women of her class status did not seek, a public role as more than just a figure head and silent partner. Zenobia on the other hand, begins the novel already a powerful presence in the world of social reform and then denounces her work. Perley and Zenobia disobey the gender roles placed upon them during the nineteenth century. Thus, due to the unconventional nature of their behavior, both women must sacrifice their domestic happiness in order to accomplish something greater in the public sphere.

 
Apr 26th, 10:40 AM

From Domestic Bliss to Reformist Enlightenment: A Study of Domestic Life and Social Actions of Women in Phelps’s The Silent Partner and Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance

Edwards 101

Keywords: Sentimentalism, Women's Rights, Hawthorne, Phelps, Virtue vs Value, Public Speaking, Female Activists, Domestic Happiness

This presentation will discuss the sentimental nature of two novels from the nineteenth century whose heroines both give up the conventional path to female happiness, namely marriage and domestic life, in favor of reformist platforms. In Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s The Silent Partner and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, Perley and Zenobia are both unconventional women in their times. The central argument of this essay is that in a century where only one path was written out for women, any woman who strived for something other than marriage had to denounce her path to domestic happiness. Perely and Zenobia cannot live lives’ of domestic bliss due to their social reformist awakenings. The struggles of their fellow citizens appear to enlighten them and spark their interest in something more important than serving a husband. Perley acts out against her surroundings in favor of something women of her class status did not seek, a public role as more than just a figure head and silent partner. Zenobia on the other hand, begins the novel already a powerful presence in the world of social reform and then denounces her work. Perley and Zenobia disobey the gender roles placed upon them during the nineteenth century. Thus, due to the unconventional nature of their behavior, both women must sacrifice their domestic happiness in order to accomplish something greater in the public sphere.