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Angel in the House

Coventry Patmore believed his wife Emily was the perfect Victorian wife and wrote “The Angel in the House” about her. Though it did not receive much attention when it was first published in 1854, it became increasingly popular through the rest of the nineteenth century and continued to be influential into the twentieth century. The Little House series reflects what Patmore originally wrote and strongly believed. The Angel in the House theme is both introduced and intertwined throughout the series.

It begins in The Little House in the Big Woods and continues to reveal itself throughout The Little House in the Prairie, thus giving to audience a view of nineteenth century culture. Patmore wrote that Man must be pleased; but him to please is woman’s pleasure. This common concept of the nineteenth century reveals itself in this stanza. Women held one position in society, and it held constant throughout the eighteen hundreds: Please man. Ma, in The Little House series, is a prime example of the Angel in the House. Ma is always there for Pa. She realizes that he provides and she obeys.

Ma, in The Little House in the Big Woods, had a schedule for each week. .She washed on Monday, Ironed on Tuesday, Mended on Wednesday, Churned on Thursday, Cleaned on Friday, and Baked on Saturday. On top of those chores, Ma prepared food and tended to Pa and the children. There wasnt a day for Mas needs and desires. Ma presents herself as the stereotypical housewife of the nineteenth century, and I feel that the strongest example of the Angel/housewife concept is the fact that Ma left the luxurious Eastern part of America for the more desolate West.

She gave up a life of luxury to obey Pa. She no longer has the lavishness she had in the East. She is transformed by the way of the West. Going from something to nothing not only a difficult task, but is a shining example of what Angel in the House women are supposed to do. Patmore continued to say And if he once, by shame oppress’d, A comfortable word confers, She leans and weeps against his breast, And seems to think the sin was hers.

This stanza brings up two very good points about the culture of the eighteen hundreds: Women were to think that men were always right and women were always wrong, not matter the situation and women should not take compliments. Ma conforms to both of these concepts. A good example of the notion that men are right and women are wrong appears at the beginning of Little House on the Prairie. Pa asks Ma to move West, so long as Ma did not object. However, Ma does object, but it does not matter, for they went anyway.

It mattered to Ma that it was the middle of winter and it was dangerous. Their well being was at stake. Nonetheless, her thoughts were trumped by Pa when he states that they have to go now to cross the river. No matter who had more clout in their standpoint, Pa was the correct one and Ma, therefore, was incorrect. Although Ma seems to be the perfect specimen of the Angel in the House, she also shows her not-so-ladylike side when Pa breaks his ribs, confining him to the quarters of their bed.

Ma should have traditionally been at his side, tending to him, feeding him soup and keeping him company, but instead she defiantly attacks the field and the plow. Her Angel status is thrown right out of the little cabin window the moment she started cultivating the field. Women are generally seen as submissive, servants to the male populous. However, Ma quickly moves into the dominant position when she states that God understands farmers wives too, thus given her justification for plowing the field by herself. Although Pa smiles, the rebelliousness that Ma portrays goes to show that even angels have a deviant side.

It may seem that the Angel in the House theory has dissipated in todays society, but it held strong in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The idea that women must stay home and lie under the whip of the dominant male is long gone. Women now are in the workforce, not in the kitchen. They are selling their labor, not doing the laundry. They are defying the economy, not cleaning the house. Nevertheless, the concept was alive and kicking in the eighteen hundreds and Wilder did an excellent job of presenting that to her audience.

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