July 29, 2010

The Odd Women, George Gissing

The odd women are economically excess. Some want to change the rules (get jobs); others don't, particularly, but would like not to starve to death.

In the cases when sympathy must be divided, Gissing's sympathy is for the women. The New Woman who will not play Enid to Erec is sad, because they almost love each other, but justified, because he wanted to dominate her and that doesn't work (anymore?). The woman who marries for security and wrecks her husband is not admired, but nor is he; her weakness is not examined as much as his is. In the end, that marriage leaves its participants much worse off, but two or three people much better off. Maybe Gissing is a utilitarian. Even the title-hunting sister-in-law turns out to be practical and kind.

Remarkably little is said about actual employment; everyone knows that it's best to have capital, after that a pen-and-ink job, very bad to be a governess/companion/nanny/teacher. The admirable activist is drawing women from 'the overstocked profession of teaching'; someone else defends the 'solidarity of ladies and servant girls' on Christian grounds.

There's one good marriage, after decades of scraping and hoping and waiting... perhaps the difference is that husband and wife are economically equal, as well as equal in love.


Project Gutenberg file 4313, The Odd Women

So wrote clew in Fiction (19th c.).
And thus wrote others:
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