americanlit paper 2

americanlit paper 2 - Smith 1 Wesley Smith Dr. Wilhelm...

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Smith 1 Wesley Smith Dr. Wilhelm English 2326-02 12 August 2010 Gender—Not Sex—and The City Ruth Hall is a poignant illustration of the plight of a widowed woman in the mid- nineteenth century and shows how industrialization forced men and women to conform to the expectations of their respective genders. Fern shows the abysmal conditions for women in urban civilization during the industrial revolution in contrast to the liberating lifestyle associated with country living. Fern shows how industrialization influenced the rigidity of the gender caste system, and uses Ruth’s character to show that nonconformity is met with harsh opposition but ultimately nonconformists succeed. Fern begins the novel making the distinction between what God made and what Man has made during a discussion between Ruth and Daisy about a caterpillar, “what an ugly playfellow; put him down, do darling; I cannot bear to see him on your arm,” and Daisy responds “Why— God made him” (Fern 37). Daisy tells her mother that which is made by God is inherently beautiful, which implies that which is made by Man is inherently ugly. This discussion sets up the topic of industrialization because urban industry is man-made, where as agrarian industry is simply utilizing what God has provided. Gender, much like industrialization, is Man-made but sex is made by God. The expectations of gender roles are inherently ugly and should be disregarded, which is exactly what Ruth does through out the tale. Ruth refuses to live within the boundaries assigned to her by men and by industrialization, although she does receive opposition she ultimately triumphs using the talent God provided her with.
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Smith 2 Closely related to the previous topic, beauty in God’s creations, is the “Eden-like” quality of the setting at the beginning of the novel. Fern paints a picture of a landscape teeming with beauty where “peace brooded, like a dove” (26). In this Garden of Eden, Ruth is not bound by the clock and in fact does not even need a watch to tell the time but rather knows by the position of the sun. In contrast, life in the urban industry is of the clock, by the clock, and for the clock. Ruth was able to “give an order without having it countermanded; she could kiss little Daisy, without being called ‘silly;’ she could pull out her comb, and let her curls flow about her face, without being considered ‘frivolous” (25). In the country Ruth is allowed to transcend the gender norm and act in whatever way she feels appropriate without the annoying nagging of her mother-in-law or of society in general, which she finds impossible to do later in the novel. Ruth’s mother-in-law shows the ultimate effect of living within the boundaries assigned to the female gender. Fern even uses the term “female” as a derogatory term to describe the worst kind of woman. “Yes; she [Ruth] was free as the golden orioles, whose hanging nests swayed to and fro amid the glossy green leaves beneath her window” (25). In the country, while still married to
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This note was uploaded on 04/09/2011 for the course CHEM 4461 taught by Professor Max during the Spring '08 term at Lamar University.

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americanlit paper 2 - Smith 1 Wesley Smith Dr. Wilhelm...

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