Elisabeth Stuart Phelps captures the essence of time when “ young ladies had not begun to have ‘opinions’ upon the doctrine of evolution, and before feminine friendships and estrangements were founded on the distinctions between protoplasm and bioplasm” (Phelps 8). She writes a kunstlerroman novel of young woman who has the ability to go far with her artistic talent and looses her inspiration after being married. Another author who tackles similar issues is Louisa May Alcott and her novel “Little Women”. Alcott conveys different perceptions for women and conventions what they must adhere to. Conventions in this retrospect deals with ideology that at a certain age young women give up their what is determined, a ‘childhood passion’ to assume the role of a wife. Both Phelps’s novel “ The Story of Avis” and Alcott’s “ Little Women” brings forth the idea that women through marriage were being suppressed and abused by the social constraints that has been set for them. Also, the role of mother, wife and then a person conflicts with any aspirations for being financially independent and/ or a woman seeking a creative lifestyle. A more contemporary type thinking might question this by asking why cant women have the best of worlds, a family and a career? However, Phelps and Alcott works speaks for them by giving us a realistic and creative outlook on domestic life for women who want both.
In “ The Story of Avis” we are introduced to young lady named Avis Dobell. She is educated, strong-willed and a talented artist. Avis who has studied abroad has been educated far beyond her years. She is adamant about not getting married. Phelps creates a character with strong feministic ideals. Avis would rather pursue a career in arts, then marry. However, her womanly urges draw her close to Phillip Ostrander. At first Avis tries to suppress her feeling for him but in the end gives in because he promises not to not intervene with her career. Avis having feeling for man comes almost natural to her and she cannot put her feeling off. She describes her need for him, as “the coffee wouldn't be right.” (Phelps 108). The irony is how quick the coffee turns sour after she married him. Avis can be compared to Josephine March in Alcott’s “Little Women”. Just like in Phelps’s novel, the book is loosely based on Louisa May Alcott herself. Jo enjoys not being like girl, she is a tomboy. She likes to write and is very opinionated. Her bold nature often gets her into trouble. One of the most heartfelt moments in the book is when Jo cuts off her long, chestnut brown hair — "her one beauty"( Alcott 97), and sells it so that her mother can go see her father . Jo, like Avis refuses marriage proposals, she moves to New York, later meets and marries Professor Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer. Phelps, character Phillip Ostander is a sweet talker. He makes empty promises of not wanting to make Avis sacrifice her talent for marriage. Phillip professes to Avis that he would not interfere with her work he says, “I do not want your work, or your individuality. I refuse to accept any such sacrifice from the woman I love. You are perfectly right. A man ought to be above it. Let me be that man." (Phelps 107), Phillip lures Avis with the very same thing that keeps her wanting to be apart from him. Phillip portrays himself as someone who is secure with his manhood. Phillip’s luck changes when he looses his position at the university and begins to be more of a liability then an asset to Avis. Phillip’s false promises intervene with there marriage when he begins to cheat. Avis because of Phillip has to suffer by paying his debts. Phillip’s own personal problems constitute as emotional abuse and suppression for Avis. She has to assume the role of both male and female because he cannot provide for the family as remains to spend her money. Avis is stressed with domestic life and has no time to dedicate for her art. Avis has to tend to be a mother, rather then an artist. She best...
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