The Truth of the Angel in the House

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Authors
McMahon, Caitlin
Issue Date
2017-04-29
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event
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en_US
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Abstract
The nineteenth century in the United States was a time that saw a resurgence of beliefs that would keep the modern family together. The Angel in the House is a phrase that is used to describe the type of woman that was worshipped in a cult-like fashion during this time, a domestic goddess of sorts. They were to be the paradigm of chastity; well-versed in the cleanliness and culinary arts. They were uncorrupted forces in a corrupting world. This article seeks to dismantle this patriarchal driven ideal and prove, through examples taken from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as well as other scholarly sources, that this ideal is not only outdated at the time but is dangerous for the women who find themselves chained to the domestic sphere. By positing Jo and Beth next to each other the problems with the Angel in the House, Beth, are starkly highlighted against the free-spirited nature of Jo. While some argue that Beth’s early death serves to immortalize her innocence, it instead prevents her from maturing and eventually falling short of the ideal. There is much more for women than the domestic sphere and that is what this article intends to prove.
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