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A Comparison Of Mary Wilkins Freeman's Two Stories, "The Revolt Of Mother" And "Luella Miller"

1254 words - 5 pages

In looking for similarities in style and theme in Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's "The Revolt of 'Mother'" and "Luella Miller," the most obvious is that the central characters in each story are strong New England women living during the turn of the century. There is also the recurring theme of the ramifications faced by women who rebelled against their traditional role in a society dominated by men. What is interesting about these themes is not only what they relate about feminism in early America, but also what they reveal about the author's own life. Biographies about Freeman state that she was a diligent and ambitious writer, but also that she didn't marry until she was nearly 50 years of age, connecting her own behavior in many ways to those of her characters."Luella Miller" and "Revolt of 'Mother'" both highlight a strong-willed woman, as in Lydia Anderson and Sarah Penn, and a fragile character, Luella Miller and Nanny Penn. In each story, the strong woman realizes it is their duty to help the more fragile woman. At the end of "Luella Miller," Lydia Anderson is the only person in town who will even help Luella, and does so, even knowing that her own health could be in danger noting "nobody else dared to go there. It was about midnight that I left her for a minute to run home and get some medicine I had been takin', for I begun to feel rather bad." Similarly, Sarah Penn in "Revolt of 'Mother'" defies her husband with the sole intention to housekeep for her soon-to-be married daughter who Sarah claimed "wa'n't ever strong. She's got considerable color, but there wa'n't never any backbone to her. I've always took the heft of everything off her, an' she ain't fit to keep house an' do everything herself. She'll be all worn out inside of a year."Each woman is a strong-willed caretaker, who knows what conventional female behavior should be and believes that it is the natural order. For Lydia, she is disgusted by Luella Miller's inability to care for herself, and how everyone around her loves her so dearly that they pay with their own life. When Aunt Abby died, Lydia believed that when no one in town would help Luella, she would be forced to help herself when she said: "she's goin' to die, and then you'll be left alone, and you'll have to do for yourself and wait on yourself, or do without things." Lydia values women's work and cannot fathom why Luella cannot and will not conform to those values.In Sarah Penn's case, she knows what her role as wife and mother is, and tries diligently to stay within her boundaries until her hand is forced. When after many questionings about the new barn her husband can only respond "I 'ain't got nothin' to say," she is obliged to step outside her role in order to obtain a better home for her daughter's future family. Even though she was defeated at this point in the story, she still fulfilled her duties as wife and mother, illustrated well in this passage: "However deep a resentment she might be forced to hold against her...

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