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Alcott and Hawthorne's Portrayal of Feminine Roles Essay

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In the nineteenth century domestic, maternal women were considered the ideal. Several authors challenged this ideal while others glorified it and showed it as completely pragmatic. After all, who better to raise and feed the family than the one who is responsible for giving life to them? Louisa May Alcott shows her primary female figure in Transcendental Wild Oats, Hope Lamb, in a strong traditional female role. Hope is arguably the strongest character in the story and serves as an alternative to the typical modern feminist society promotes today. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, Zenobia is the heroine who to a great extend runs the commune. She is bold physically, spiritually and intellectually. She is very much different from Hope Lamb, but in many crucial ways, they are all too similar.

In Alcott's Transcendental Wild Oats, Hope Lamb is the faithful wife of Abel Lamb and the nurturing mother of Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and May. Hope wants little more than to keep her family happy and healthy. When Abel decides that the family will live on a tract of land to, "[ . . . ] initiate a Family in harmony with the primitive instincts of man" (Alcott 27), Hope stands by her man and agrees to uproot the family to follow her husband's whim. She is the constant voice of reason and sometimes sarcasm for the idealistic men. When discussing how the "vessels" that carry their food should be elegant and perfect, Mrs. Lamb asks, "Will whiting be allowed in the community?" (32). While this statement is perfectly legitimate, Alcott offers the reader the statement in such a way that the reader can not help but imagine the smirk Hope must have had when asking this question. She is a good wife and truly wants to make the commune wo...


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...oman's lot. Such reading is consistent with Zenobia's character [ . . . ]" (78). Much like Hope Lamb, Zenobia is concerned with a cause greater than herself. For Hope, it is her family, for Zenobia it is all of her fellow sisters in womanhood.

Both Alcott and Hawthorne provide brilliant examples of feminists and both, though different, are perfect for showing the complexities of American women. While many women make their cause global, many others contain their goals locally, and both are worthy of supporting feminism. Zenobia and Hope stand as examples of inredible characters that provide a Victorian era with a view of womanhood not often noticed.

Works Cited

Elbert, Sarah. A Hunger for Home: Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1984.

Schriber, Mary Suzanne. "Justice to Zenobia." The New England Quarterly 551 (1982) : 61-78.




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