Through the oppressive times when women were meant to be no more than homemakers and pawns to their bread-winning men, the 'Cult of True Womanhood' symbolized everything that the females of America were supposed to be. It stated that they must be pure in mind, body, heart, and soul; for a woman should never let herself imitate the devil in the man's impure world. In fact, a woman should never even consider sin because women must be more pious than man. She must be religious and spiritual beyond her husband because he is out working while she has time to form a stronger bond with God. This is, of course, something that she can do from her home, which she must always maintain at superlative levels.
Women were told that they must be domestic creatures; caring for the children and cooking for the family while making sure the house was always clean. And despite all her work for the man and the family, women were still to be submissive to the wishes of men. However, many female authors refused to simply accept that women were supposed to live in servitude and chose to write out against it. They did not actively protest, rather they undermined the very ideals through their fictional writing. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman wrote A New England Nun, in which the main character is too domestic to allow herself to submit to her future husband, and instead lets him go off with another woman so she can be free. Kate Chopin penned the scandalous short story The Storm where a wife cheats on her husband in the very house where she takes care of him. Both authors present different ideas, but they both are able to show strong women living outside the Cult of True Womanhood.
[...] Louisa is a symbol in and of herself, as told to the reader by the title of the short story. While named New England it makes no explicit mention of the religious habits of any characters. Freeman very subtly is able to describe the pious nature of Louisa Ellis. While she is not described as an adamant church goer in text, she is called a nun by the title. The title of nun is very fitting for Louisa, as a nun's qualities are celibacy, solidarity, and self discipline. [...]
[...] Through the many uses of colored imagery, Kate Chopin shows the readers that Calixta maintains the appearance of a pure person who obeys the Cult of True Womanhood whether dressed or bare, but she is ultimately not completely pure in looks or actions. Yet Bobinot does not notice any flaws in her purity, as her sexual desires go right past him. Her red lips, blue eyes, and white flame all work against the idea of the of the pure woman, but none of these things cause any commotion or create any problems between Bobinot and Calixta. [...]
[...] This mocks the Cult of True Womanhood by being the driving force of her independent nature. Instead of maintaining a clean and proper house for her family to live in, she does it for herself to the point where she creates separation from the man she plans to marry. When Joe looks through her books and leaves them in a different order, Louisa eyes them until she must rearrange them to the they had been arranged in the first place” prior to Joe's meddling (Freeman 628). [...]
[...] Another female protagonist able to oppose the Cult of True Womanhood was Calixta from Kate Chopin's short story Storm.” Calixta actively fights against True Womanhood, practically mocking its existence. Her role as a submissive wife is never even considered by the reader, as Storm” quickly tells the reader that Calixta “felt no uneasiness for [her husband and son's] safety” (Chopin 531). She is not cold or unloving, as she does hope for their safety once she realizes the severity of the storm, but Chopin sets her up on a different wave length from her husband. [...]
[...] The True Cult of Womanhood presents woman as a more spiritual and religious being than her male counterpart. Storm” plays into this as Calixta is described like an “immaculate dove” while still being passionate creature” (Chopin 533). This precise word choice implicitly links Calixta to the idea of spiritual purity. Immaculate is associated with the immaculate birth, where Jesus was born to his virgin mother. Similarly, doves are perceived as a spiritual symbol of purity. Calixta, in the eyes of Alcee, is a beauty so pure that it is beyond this world, but she still maintains a lustful charm. [...]
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