Domestic fiction as a genre was preponderantly written for misss and immature adult females by adult females authors, and the genre grew extremely popular and flourished in the 19th century, particularly during the mid to late 19th century. Domestic fiction, frequently referred to as ‘sentimental fiction ‘ ( due to its sentimental plotlines and characters ) or merely ‘women ‘s fiction ‘ , became the dominant genre for misss in both Britain and America and the bulk of domestic composing upheld and supported the limitations of the female function. Many novels of domestic fiction have therefore been criticised for non trying to dispute these restrictions and authorise immature adult females to populate a Fuller and more rewarding life, instead than merely reenforcing the thought that adult females must be entirely within the domestic domain. This thesis will discourse three different texts of the domestic fiction genre – Elizabeth Wetherell ‘s The Wide, Wide World ( 1852 ) , Charlotte Mary Yonge ‘s The Clever Woman of the Family ( 1865 ) and Louisa May Alcott ‘s authoritative narrative Small Women ( 1868 ) – and will analyze whether literature aimed at misss and immature adult females in the 19th century began to authorise adult females and show them with the thought of a life off from the limitations of the domestic domain, or whether the genre of domestic fiction merely enforced the regulations and limitations of the female function.
During the 19th century, the influences upon the lives of kids and immature grownups were really few and far between. Whereas kids of the 21st century are still undeniably influenced by literature, these kids live in the age of telecasting, extended advertisement, communicating, the cyberspace and modern engineering, and have an eclectic scope of influences at their disposal instead than merely literature, one of the chief and major influences for kids during the 19th century was the literature that was written specifically for them. Literacy, and literature itself increased well during the reign of Queen Victoria, and this can be attributed to a figure of factors – one of the most of import factors being the enlargement of popular instruction. Children and the thought of childhood had begun to be viewed and treated as a province which was wholly set aside from maturity, and the kid was considered to be far more guiltless, and possess a far more ductile head than the grownup. As John Back observes in his survey Towards a Sociology of Education:
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‘Everything to make with kids and household life had become a affair of worthy attending. Not merely the kid ‘s hereafter, but his presence and really being was of concern: the kid had taken a cardinal topographic point in the household. ‘[ 1 ]
The Victorians of the 19th century created an progressively sentimental position of childhood which would turn to go widely accepted. Queen Victoria herself and Prince Albert set an illustration for a ‘prim and proper ‘ household in which the kids were greatly loved and tenderly cared for. Additionally, Victorian parents were advised to be steadfast with their kids, but to cover with them with a larger grade of tenderness than in the yesteryear, and grownups progressively saw childhood as a period in which the kid needed to be protected from the complicated grownup universe and its concerns. As a consequence of this altering position, instruction for kids became paramount, and increasing concern was placed upon guaranting that kids were suitably taught. As Judith Rowbotham writes in Good Girls Make Good Wifes: Guidance for Girls in Victorian Fiction ;
‘The kid was the male parent of the adult male, and it was of import to grownups to guarantee that kids, who represented the following coevals, should be decently taught. The inquiry that occupied many heads nevertheless, was of what did a ‘proper ‘ instruction consist? ‘[ 2 ]
Male childs were given ‘penny dreadfuls ‘ ; cheap novels which frequently featured violent escapade or offense and were issued in monthly episodes. However, a knowing female at this clip was assumed to hold been productively instructed in the importance of her domestic and societal responsibilities and duties, every bit good as in academic topics. As a consequence of this premise, misss were presented with the domestic novel. Young adult females and misss were deemed to be more ‘suited ‘ to life within the domestic domain, and the purpose of domestic fiction and ‘girl ‘s narratives ‘ was to warrant the boundaries of the female place within society and to convert the female, particularly the waxy immature adult female, of the necessity to conform to the functions of the domestic domain. Didactic authorship of this sort was surely non a modern-day phenomenon – educational and informative books for immature heads were besides featured to a great extent in the 18th century. These nevertheless, were intended for an upper-class market and were published in the signifier of essays instead than as books. The part that misss made in their place was really important, nevertheless it should be noted that that their lives were non ever entirely made up of domestic responsibilities and duties – it was rather common for misss to be every bit good educated as male childs, and to be accomplished and taught in accomplishments and endowments such as art and music. Still more civilized than what their brothers were taught, yet there was life off from the responsibilities of the place. Public schools were available to the lower and in-between categories, although they were non yet made mandatary, and misss were educated most frequently from the age of six until they reached 14 or 15. However despite this, adult females were still discouraged from prosecuting an instruction, as this would interfere with their responsibilities within the place. The July 1848 edition of the publication The Mother ‘s Magazine featured an article entitled ‘Female Education, which encouraged female parents to curtail the clip that their girls were in instruction, claiming that their achievements would be rendered unneeded after they married. The article states that immature adult females should stay focussed on their responsibilities within the place:
‘ [ aˆ¦ ] let her seek a thorough practical apprehension of those rules of which she may as a married woman, female parent and housekeeper, be called to do day-to-day usage.
We are advocators for a thorough scientific instruction ; but at the same clip, for an instruction for the ordinary [ aˆ¦ ] responsibilities which females, as married womans, girls and female parents, will be called upon to execute. The piano, and the coppice, should ne’er take the topographic point of the acerate leaf. ‘[ 3 ]
Domestic fiction at this clip was renowned for sentimental and predictable plotlines, extremely dramatic scenes and weak, weepy female characters, and this characteristic earned the genre its description as the ‘language of cryings ‘ . This was a clip when the biggest aspiration of immature misss was to be married and to get married good – for a adult female to stay individual was considered non merely to be a bad luck, but a farce and yet many of the writers who wrote these books were themselves individual adult females. These books were on of the really few ways that immature misss could conceive of a life other than their ain and hence must hold a lasting and effectual impact on how they viewed themselves, both in respects to society and personally. Furthermore, the authors of domestic fiction were by and large exclusively adult females, and for a adult female to be a author was at this point a new impression, and to boot, if their plants were considered ‘unseemly ‘ or inappropriate stuff for immature misss, no 1 would buy them. Due to the fact that for these female writers composing was their lone beginning of income, the sale and popularity of their creative activities was paramount. As a consequence, it was highly rare that domestic fiction for misss in the 19th century would have a character who would step outside of society ‘s limitations upon immature adult females, and who pushed the boundaries of ‘appropriate ‘ female behavior. For this, the genre has experienced many signifiers of unfavorable judgment. The early signifiers of domestic fiction, conceived by writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Mrs. Sherwood, achieved popularity and societal position and these narratives whilst being improving, were besides considered to be entertaining. Alison Adburgham has commented that:
‘the novels were enchiridions to the linguistic communication of the boyfriend monde, to the etiquette of chaperonage, to permissible and impermissible flirtings, to extra-marital personal businesss, to all latest attitudes and fondnesss. ‘[ 4 ]
The literature was informative and the characters unrealistic and wooden – domestic fiction was treated as the perfect device to learn immature misss how they should act and present themselves. However, authors such as Charlotte Mary Yonge and Louisa May Alcott however managed to compose characters who did venture beyond the boundaries of false stereotypes in unostentatious and elusive ways, and unlike writers such as Elizabeth Wetherell, these authors managed to show an alternate life for misss through their characters, and succeeded in continuing society ‘s restrictions upon misss in the procedure. Alternatively of making nil to dispute these stereotypes and being criticised for this issue, these authors somehow were able to authorise their female audience to travel beyond the limitations of their domestic domains and live a far more stimulating life, or in other instances if their female characters did finally conform to the establishment of matrimony and a domestic oriented manner of life, they would still pull off to keep the qualities which some readers may hold deemed ‘undesirable ‘ and inappropriate. Furthermore, with the publication of Little Women in 1863, Alcott challenged and succeeded in altering what it was to be a immature miss in the Victorian age, and for decennaries to come.
Due to the huge popularity of the domestic fiction genre in the 19th century, it is surely incontestable that the genre had great consequence on its readers, whether it was the waxy and guiltless small misss which read them or the female parents who read them to their kids. But an implicit in inquiry of this peculiar genre is whether the consequence was constructive in footings of the development of adult females ‘s rights and their chances in life and the growing of their place within the societal construction, or whether these novels simply upheld and supported the out-of-date and rigorous boundaries set upon adult females of the 19th century and earlier, and supported the stereotypes placed upon them without trying to do alterations to this. I will try to reply this inquiry in the chapters that follow.
The incarnation of the feminine ideal: Elizabeth Wetherell, The Wide, Wide World ( 1850 – published in Britain in 1852 )
The miss of the mid-nineteenth-century spent the bulk of her clip in the company of other adult females and middle-class misss in peculiar pass their clip with their female parents, their sisters and female retainers or nursemaids who may hold lived with them in their houses. Their experience was majorly influenced and centred around a feminine community, in which domesticity and the domestic function which they would prosecute in their hereafters was cardinal to their lives. As the term implies, domestic literature presented the place and the household as the best context and environment for the character edifice and moral reformation. Pulling to a great extent on the ‘Sunday school ‘ motion, the genre embodied kids with the thought that they were able to transform and salvage others around them through charity, supplication and devotedness. Domestic fiction by and large tended to conform to one basic secret plan line, which featured the narrative of a immature adult female ( perchance freshly orphaned, or separated from her parents ) deprived of support she had antecedently depended on and is therefore faced with the undertaking of doing her ain manner in the strange and unfamiliar outside universe. Her self-importance at the beginning of the novel is frequently damaged or is merely non-existent, and she believes that her defenders will ever be at that place to protect and ‘coddle ‘ her ; nevertheless she learns distressingly that this is non the instance as she becomes acquainted with the existent universe. This is a universe in which she is highly vulnerable – surely non immune to loss, hurting or adversity as she may hold antecedently been, and she is surrounded by people who are far less virtuous than her. The failure of the universe to transcend her outlooks awakens the immature miss to her ain possibilities, and what she herself is capable of due to her overpowering good nature and spiritualty. By the flood tide of the novel, the immature adult female would normally come to recognize and believe in her ain worth and most significantly, will come to recognize an highly important Christian value that everything in life, even if it is bad, is caused by God and will finally take to something good. Commenting on domestic fiction, Nina Baym describes the genre of the domestic novel in Women ‘s Fiction as ‘the narrative of a immature miss who is deprived of the supports she had justly or wrongly depended on to prolong her throughout her life and is faced with the necessity of winning her ain manner in the universe. ‘[ 5 ]Written by Susan Warner and published under the anonym Elizabeth Wetherell, The Wide, Wide World is argued to be the novel which foremost established the genre of kids ‘s domestic fiction, and one which surely embodies these features of the domestic novel.
The Wide, Wide World is one of the earliest and best illustrations of what would turn to go the most popular genre of 19th century fiction – the domestic ( or sentimental ) novel and moreover, it is considered to be America ‘s first ‘best-seller ‘ novel. Warner was an American evangelical author of spiritual and kids ‘s fiction and, of class, domestic fiction. However, as novels were considered by some to be ‘sinful ‘[ 6 ]and damaging to moral instruction, Warner described her novels as narratives. Gross saless of the ‘story ‘ were unprecedented during the clip of its publication as in about a twelvemonth, The Wide, Wide World sold over 40,000 transcripts and this figure would lift to 225,000 at the terminal of the 1850 ‘s. Her plants were among some of the most popular of domestic fiction written in the 19th century, and many featured plot lines in which both moral and spiritual messages were woven. Warner ‘s novel featured an accurate portraiture of what life was like during the Victorian epoch in America and this is one ground for its great popularity. Although the novel is written and set in America, the characters of the narrative are well-born English and Scottish, and they act harmonizing to their stock and upbringing, and a period at the terminal of the novel takes topographic point in Scotland itself. As a consequence, despite this being an American text, The Wide, Wide World was entirely relevant and applicable to English readers. Mid-nineteenth century readers of the novel recognised and appreciated its relevancy to their ain lives and adult females saw themselves and their state of affairss mirrored in the state of affairs of the supporter Ellen Montgomery, and the people she meets throughout the narrative. Although this book was written by a adult female for adult females, it was non peculiarly aimed at kids. What sets it aside as a kids ‘s text and more significantly a miss ‘s text is the fact that the supporter is a immature adult female.
Published in 1850, the fresh went through 14 editions in merely two old ages, and the novel was finally published in Britain in 1852. It maintained its huge popularity throughout the 19th century ; nevertheless it waned in popularity during the early portion of the 20th century, particularly around the 1920 ‘s at a clip when non-domestic kids ‘s literature began to boom. In What Katy Read: Feminist Re-readings of ‘Classic ‘ Narratives for Girls by bookmans of 19th century misss ‘ fiction Shirley Foster and Judy Simons it is stated that Warner ‘s text ‘served as a span between the pious Sunday school narratives of the 1830 ‘s and the child-centred escapades of the latter half of the century ‘ and furthermore the novel featured an ‘unprotected heroine overcomes enduring and trials to accomplish religious flawlessness and moral adulthood ‘ ,[ 7 ]and this would go the archetypical secret plan which dominated the domestic fiction genre.
As mentioned in the debut, domestic fiction in some instances had become known as the ‘language of cryings ‘ , and Warner ‘s novel surely conforms to this description, as we can see at many points throughout the text. The fresh Begins with the break of Ellen ‘s happy life, as her female parent is deceasing and her male parent has lost his luck and upon physicians ‘ recommendations, her parents travel to Europe, and it is unknown how long they will be absent. Ellen leads a fulfilling and pampered life style in New York, and as a consequence of her parents ‘ going, she must go forth her place in order to populate with her Aunt Fortune, her male parent ‘s sister ( who seems to portion his disposition ) in the countryside. Ellen efforts to be brave for the interest of her female parent ; nevertheless she finds small comfort and is clearly devastated at her going and Ellen, weeping, flings ‘her weaponries around her female parent, and concealing her face in her lap gave manner to a violent explosion of heartache that seemed for a few minutes as if it would rip psyche and organic structure in couple. ‘[ 8 ]Equally good as being a premier illustration of the domestic novel, The Wide, Wide World is considered to be a piece of ‘sentimentalist ‘ literature, and the novel unimpeachably portrays how sentimental Warner ‘s manner is. The action of the narrative is introverted within Ellen, and we can see that she is a weepy character at many points throughout the novel. For illustration ; ‘Dressing was sad work to Ellen today ; it went on really to a great extent. Tears dropped into the H2O as she stooped her heard to the basin, ‘[ 9 ]is an infusion from a four page stretch of the novel, and within these pages Ellen is portrayed to be shouting on five separate occasions. On norm, Ellen sheds her cryings about one time every two pages, and it is clear that her readers are expected to shout with her, and many likely did.
The Wide, Wide World is described as the quintessential domestic novel, and many women’s rightist critics have focused on analysing the novel ‘s portraiture of gender kineticss. Warner ‘s characters conformed to the stereotypes of ideal immature adult females. Ellen Montgomery, the heroine of the novel, is the prototype of what society desired a immature adult female to be in the 19th century ; her ‘behaviour is ever modest, declarative of unselfish entry to those in due authorization over her, such as her parents. Elizabeth Wetherell was an early supplier of the stereotype of a good miss on the most ideal lines. ‘[ 10 ]Her behavior is absolutely ladylike and throughout the novel she pursues self betterment, and although she is descended from luxury and money, she discovers how to go ‘domestic ‘ and to care for both the family and herself, and besides noticing on this issue, Rowbotham goes on to claim ;
”The message of didactic fiction throughout the 19th century was that feminine influence was more indispensable to the day-to-day moral wellness and strength of the household unit and of the state than that of a adult male. It was a adult female ‘s first responsibility in life hence, to go as professional in her domain as a adult male in his ; to cultivate her feminine endowments in the emotional kingdom so as to maximize their utility within the domestic orbit ‘[ 11 ]
In add-on to this, it was believed that selflessness as opposed to autonomy was what marked adult females as professionals, and Ellen surely conforms to this belief and it is clear that she sacrifices her ain desires for the benefit of those around her. We observe Ellen ‘s exhaustively good and self-denying nature at many points in the novel, peculiarly when her Aunt Fortune becomes badly. Although her Aunt has treated Ellen severely since she arrived in her attention, Ellen must project this fact aside and take over as caput of the family, as it was indispensable for an ideal 19th century miss to go adaptable and to maintain her calm in hard state of affairss. Throughout the novel, Ellen experiences and learns selflessness and retiring nature and learns to make without the luxuries she has been used to, and it could be suggested that Ellen is the perfect incarnation of the Victorian feminine ideal, frequently referred to as ‘The Angel in the House ‘ . The image of ideal muliebrity, as defined by Barbara Welter in her well-known article The Cult of True Womanhood characteristics feminine virtuousnesss such as:
‘Piety, pureness, submissiveness and domesticity. Put them together and they spelled female parent, girl, sister, married woman – adult female. Without them, non matter whether there was celebrity, accomplishment or wealth, was ashes. With them she was promised felicity and power. ‘[ 12 ]
Womans were desired and mostly required to incarnate these features and to go the domestic ideal, and this Victorian image of the ideal married woman and the ideal adult female came to be known as ‘The Angel in the House ‘ . The ‘angel ‘ was powerless, inactive and devoted to her hubby, and wholly pure. The look ‘Angel in the House ‘ originates from the rubric of the highly popular verse form by Coventry Patmore of the same name, in which he presents his married woman Emily- the ‘angel ‘ of the rubric – as a theoretical account for all womankind, under the feeling that his married woman Emily was the absolute ideal Victorian married woman. Warner ‘s novel is a text which features adult females, most notably Ellen ‘s female parent and Alice Humphreys who conform to the ideals of ‘The Angel in the House ‘ and it is from these adult females that Ellen learned to go the perfect and model middle-class Victorian miss. As Signe O. Wegener observes in James Fenimore Cooper Versus The Cult Of Domesticity,
‘Whereas [ writers such as ] Child and Sedgewick marginalise the female parent, Warner allows her more prominence and influence, invariably stressing the about symbolic fond regard between female parent and girl. Mrs. Montgomery, although an invealid, is the most of import individual in the heroine Ellen ‘s life, carefully determining her girl into an angel in the house – and a mirror of her pious and self-denying ego. As befits a female parent from the hey-day of the cult of domesticity, she has the “ proper precedences ” .[ 13 ]
Ellen ‘s female parent is submissive to her hubby, yet is conflicted as she does non desire her girl to be sent off and surely does non desire to travel to Europe. However, since both her physician and her hubby ( who are both dominant males ) demand that she make, she must obey them and the storyteller observes, ‘Captain Montgomery added the weight of authorization, take a firm standing on her conformity. ‘ And of class, the submissive angel in the house, Mrs. Montgomery is required to yield to the separation. Mrs. Montgomery has perfectly no power in her hubby ‘s family yet she ne’er voices her ailments, even when she is to be separated from Ellen whom she loves and adores – Ellen learns and demonstrates much throughout the novel from her counsel and it is apparent that this is what her female parent desires, and we are presented with this fact upon her female parents going when Ellen is presented with a bible and workbasket, indispensable points for the ideal Victorian miss. The ground for these gifts, her female parent explains, is that these will supply everything necessary for maintaining up good wonts, and that this will assist Mrs. Montgomery to rest assured that Ellen will:
‘be ever neat, and tidy, and hardworking, depending upon others every bit small as possible ; and careful to better yourself by every agency [ aˆ¦ ] I will go forth you no alibi, Ellen, for neglecting in any of these responsibilities. I trust you will non let down me in a individual specific. ‘[ 14 ]
Furthermore, under her the counsel of her female parent ( albeit, her invalid female parent ) Ellen learns to go the ‘the angel in the house ‘ , and one case in which we can see this is the point at which Ellen ‘experiments ‘ in jabing the fire in her place. As Mrs. Montgomery is unfit for housekeeping, Ellen learns to acknowledge the mute understanding in which the family responsibilities are transferred onto her:
‘The room was dark and cheerless ; and Ellen felt stiff and chilly. However, she made her manner to the fire, and holding found the fire hook, she applied it gently to the Liverpool coal with such good attempt that a bright ruddy blazing sprang up, and lighted the whole room. Ellen smiled at the consequence of her experiment. “ That is something like ” , she said to herself ; “ who says I ca n’t jab the fire? Now, allow us see if I ca n’t make something else. ” ‘[ 15 ]
Ellen is frequently diffident of her abilities within the domestic domain, and this ‘experiment ‘ with the fire hook gives her some thought of what she could be able to execute, and what outcomes they could supply for the house and for others around her and this is clear as she continues ‘experimenting ‘ within the room. This suggests, rather literally, that her labors could illume up and convey heat to a cold, dark and depressing place. She could go the ‘angel in the house ‘ or the ‘light of the place ‘ and through her domestic labor, as we can see, Ellen herself becomes happier and far more contented. Furthermore, it would look that her female parent ‘s direction and influence was non in vain and Ellen has apparently fulfilled her female parent ‘s wants, as we can see by friends depicting Ellen as:
‘ ” [ aˆ¦ ] a most extraordinary kid! ” said Mrs. Gillespie.
“ She is a good kid ” , said Mrs. Chauncey.
“ Yes mama, I do n’t believe she could assist being polite. ”
“ It is non that, [ aˆ¦ ] mere sugariness and niceness would ne’er give so much
elegance of mode. Equally far as I have seen, Ellen Montgomery is a absolutely well behaved kid. ”
“ That she is ‘ said Mrs. Chauncey ; ‘but neither would any cultivation or illustration be sufficient for it without Ellen ‘s through good rule and great sugariness of pique. ” ‘[ 16 ]
The incarnation of ‘the angel in the house ‘ seems to be a dominant subject throughout Warner ‘s text, nevertheless one of the adult females in the head of Ellen ‘s life who should basically function as a sort of replacement of Ellen ‘s female parent, is the exact antonym of this feminine ideal. Ellen, despite all that her female parent has left her with to do an ideal life for herself in her absence, finds small consolation with her male parent ‘s sister, Fortune Emerson. Described in What Katy Read as:
‘In footings of the paradigmatic fairy-tale construction of the novel, she is the wicked stepmother. Apparently incapable of fondness and bearing deep scores, she tyrannises over Ellen: she cheats her of her female parent ‘s letters, she refuses to do it possible for her to go to the local school, and in order to justify herself in the eyes of Mr. Van Brunt, her farm director, she makes her niece confess to mistakes of which she is non guilty. [ aˆ¦ ] In gender footings, so, she seems non merely more male than female, but embodies a domineering and aggressive maleness. ‘[ 17 ]
Ellen ‘s Aunt Fortune turns out to be the complete antonym of her female parent. Unkind and indurate, she shows Ellen no fondness whatsoever, and in a missive to her female parent, it is clear merely how uneasy Aunt Fortune makes her, even in facets beyond her control such as her visual aspect and mode:
‘I want there was person here that I could love, but there is non. You will desire to cognize what kind of individual my aunt Fortune is. I think she is really good looking, or she would be if her olfactory organ were non rather so crisp: but, mamma, I ca n’t state you what kind of feeling I have about her: it seems to me as if she was crisp all over. I ‘m certain her eyes are every bit crisp as two acerate leafs. And she does n’t walk like other people ; at least sometimes. She makes queer small dorks and starts and leaps, and flies about like I do n’t cognize what. ‘[ 18 ]
In her new life with her aunt who is neither a ‘lady ‘ nor a Christian and who surely does non act in a familial mode towards Ellen, Ellen is clearly superior. Furthermore, Aunt Fortune blatantly denies Ellen the farther instruction that her female parent desired. Merely when Ellen meets Alice Humphrey, a refined Christian adult female ( who is surely evocative of her female parent ) does she happen solace in such an unforgiving and apparently hopeless topographic point. Alice is a pious and idealistic adult female and as the girl of a curate, she is a faithful church member – unlike anyone else in the country. Alice basically takes Ellen under her wing and with this new found company, and Ellen receives the schooling and moral direction that her Aunt Fortune has denied her. Alice and her fuss John, who is frequently off analyzing at school, save Ellen from the unkind and impious atmosphere her aunt has created and this act of deliverance by Alice supports the thought and direction that misss should non confirm their ain desires, but wait for a fellow Christian to move as a Jesus and to step in and of class in this sort of domestic novel, this was ever the instance.
Equally good as back uping the ideal of the angel in the house and making characters that appear to incarnate all of the features of the Victorian feminine ideal, The Wide, Wide World besides promotes the Christian thought that the good and virtuous dice immature, but despite an early death their deceases are seen as being sacredly meaningful nevertheless prematurely. As a consequence of these deceases, other characters are able to acknowledge the failure in their ain ethical motives. Although Aunt Fortune is soberly sick, Warner does non let her a meaningful decease as she is non spiritual or devout plenty to be worthy of it. However Alice Humphreys enters Ellen ‘s life as an ideal function theoretical account and surely the incarnation of the feminine ideal, and her exhaustively good and pure nature basically means that she is non for this universe:
‘She is able to mount a deliverance mission and take over Mrs. Montgomery ‘s responsibilities. However, Alice Humphrey ‘s is such a perfect Angel in the House that it is non surprising that Death had already marked her for his ain. Before she dies, Ellen learns from her how best to unite instruction, achievements and domesticity, taking over Alice ‘s topographic point as girl and supplier of comfort in the Humphrey family. ‘[ 19 ]
Both Ellen ‘s female parent and Alice, much like the character of Beth in Louisa May Alcott ‘s Small Women, die a beautiful and ( sacredly ) meaningful decease despite being tragic and prematurely. In using this device, Warner allows other characters to recognize and understand their moral failures in holding to witness the credence of God ‘s will in the decease of others. Although Aunt Fortune becomes earnestly sick, Warner does non let her a meaningful decease as she is non pious or religious plenty to be granted one. In maintaining Fortune alive, Warner gives her the chance to be sacredly converted, and we can see the beginnings of this transition in Fortune ‘s matrimony to Mr. Van Brunt, who by the way is undergoing spiritual transition as a consequence of Ellen ‘s influence and the message here is clear – matrimony is the lone positive result for Ellen ‘s apparently despicable aunt. Furthermore, this consequence is obviously missing in any positive women’s rightist subjects, as it would look that adult females who are considered to be unwanted such as Fortune, are humbled and basically ‘saved ‘ by work forces. Although surely non a desirable adult female or an ‘angel in the house ‘ , Fortune is still a really interesting character. As a individual adult female with a dominant personality, and in running a successful farm, aunt Fortune ab initio seems really progressive, particularly for a female at this period. However, the best thing which Warner allows to go on to Fortune is her eventual matrimony to freshly converted Mr. Van Brunt. Fortune is ab initio self-asserting, and surely independent, yet it seems that a adult male is the lone individual who is able to ‘handle ‘ her. Abandoning any strength she antecedently had in her ain ability, she now finds this in her hubby. Not merely this, but all who are involve celebrate the brotherhood and agree that for unfeminine and unwanted Fortune, this is the best thing that could perchance go on for her.
Borrowing from and in the advocating of Christian subjects and values, The Wide, Wide World and novels which followed in the genre of domestic fiction serves as a sort of usher to immature adult females, who were exhaustively encouraged to harbor low and submissive attitudes towards their seniors and particularly towards their hubbies. Fortune, although ab initio she shows no marks of following this submissive way, is finally submissive to Mr. Van Brunt ( although, non every bit submissive as Mrs. Montgomery was towards Ellen ‘s male parent ) and he in bend is the lone 1 who is able to convert her of anything and is the lone 1 who is able to command her, and we can see this in action when Fortune turns against Ellen. It is Mr. Van Brunt ‘s power over Fortune that Ellen relies on to avoid being beaten or denied things which she desires.
At the flood tide of the narrative, Ellen is sent for by her female parent ‘s household who have discovered here being and want her to come and remain with them in Scotland. Although sad and unwilling to go forth John who after the decease of Alice became a instructor and moral teacher for Ellen, like a good Victorian miss Ellen feels that it is her responsibility to follow the wants of her household, repeating the importance of familial responsibility. Unfortunately, as was the instance in her aunt ‘s house, Ellen shortly discovers and as a consequence is disappointed that she does non suit in with her household. Finding her far excessively loyal and offended by her devout Christian values, her Scots household are depicted as clannish and unsympathetic. They consider her spiritual devotedness unsuitable for a kid of Ellen ‘s age, and are unsupportive of her desire to adhere to her beliefs. Although Ellen, of class of all time gracious, is thankful of their concern for her wellbeing and their obvious love for her, longs to return to John. Typical of the domestic novel Ellen does acquire her happy stoping when John, who had left to travel to Europe before Ellen left for Scotland, travels to her new place in Scotland and expresses his desire to see her. In the context of the novel, the visual aspect of John is apparently a sort of wages for Ellen ‘s discord to be a ‘good miss ‘ even in the face of adversary. Although John does non instantly take her off, he does assure her that he will take her dorsum to her place in America when she is older, and he will go on her moral instruction in his visits and correspondence. However, when John ab initio enters the scene, Ellen ‘s felicity and the forsaking of her cryings of unhappiness is clear:
‘The seed so early sown in small Ellen ‘s head and so carefully tendered by assorted custodies, grew in class of clip to all the just stature and comely flawlessness it had bit just to make ; storms and air currents that had visited it did but do the root to take deeper clasp ; . . . Three or more old ages of Scots subject wrought her no ailment ; they did but function to anneal and fancify her Christian character ; and so, to her indefinable joy, she went back to pass her life with the friends and defenders she best loved, and to be o them, still more than she had been to her Scots dealingss, the ‘light of the eyes ” .[ 20 ]
In all but the first edition of the novel, this is where the narrative ends. However in the primary edition the concluding chapter depicts the happy matrimony between Ellen and John with him as a church curate and she a homemaker devoted to her hubby basking an upper middle-class being.
Taking all of these facets into consideration, it is surely evident that The Wide, Wide World is one of the best illustrations of the 19th century domestic novel – the secret plan is thin and conforms to the features of domestic fiction and besides to Victorian female ‘guidelines ‘ , and it would look that the secret plan simply serves as a device through which 19th century ideals are articulated. A text which arguably features small literary virtue, it conveys to immature ( and waxy ) girls the value of Christian piousness, obeisance, regard and honestness. It would look that despite attempts by critics to unearth concealed women’s rightist messages within the text, the fact stands that there is no more to this ‘story ‘ ( as Warner would hold us mention to it ) than a support of good established 19th century restrictions on adult females. Within the text there are clear illustrations of negative female stereotypes such as adult females who are missing in aspiration and who are humbled by work forces, and besides who are highly ( and frequently cripplingly ) sacredly faithful. The character of Alice is the perfect adult female and the incarnation of the feminine ideal – she is beautiful, good educated, general, low and above all wholly pious. Any adult female missing in these qualities was in desperate demand of a spiritual transition, as we see in the instance of aunt Fortune. Ellen, following her female parent and Alice ‘s lead, is clearly the future feminine ideal. In analyzing the secret plan and the character of Ellen Montgomery, it is really hard to reason the fact that The Wide, Wide World did anything more than uphold and celebrate society ‘s feminine limitations, nor did it try to authorise immature adult females to populate a fulfilling life anyplace other than the domestic domain to which they were confined.