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restricted access ‘‘As Nice a Little Saleswoman, as I Am a Housewife’’: Domesticity, Education, and Separate Spheres in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables
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‘‘As Nice a Little Saleswoman, as I Am a Housewife’’: Domesticity, Education, and Separate Spheres in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables Kelly Masterson Abstract: This article considers Nathaniel Hawthorne’s intervention into the separate spheres ideology in The House of the Seven Gables. By depicting Phoebe Pyncheon’s domestic and industrial skills, Hawthorne raises the possibility of women successfully negotiating the business world but contains them within the home by merging marketplace values and domestic education principles. Keywords: women’s education, domesticity, separate spheres, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, Phoebe Pyncheon, women’s work Résumé : Cet article examine la façon dont Nathaniel Hawthorne s’approprie l’idéologie des sphères distinctes dans La Maison aux sept pignons. En dépeignant les habiletés ménagères et techniques de Phoebe Pyncheon, Hawthorne soulève la possibilité que les femmes fassent leur chemin dans le monde des affaires, tout en les confinant à l’intérieur du foyer par la fusion des valeurs du marché boursier et des principes des arts ménagers. Mots clés : éducation des femmes, vie domestique, sphères distinctes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, La Maison aux sept pignons, Phoebe Pyncheon, travail des femmes In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story ‘‘Queen Christina,’’ first published in his 1842 collection Biographical Stories for Children, Mr. Temple, the ‘‘authoritative’’ father who tells his children stories 6 Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines ahead of print article doi: 10.3138/cras.2017.020 This ahead of print version may differ slightly from the final published version. of famous people’s childhood, proclaims, ‘‘Happy are the little girls of America, who are brought up quietly and tenderly, at the domestic hearth, and thus become gentle and delicate women! May none of them ever lose the loveliness of their sex, by receiving such an education as that of Queen Christina!’’ (qtd. in Laffrado 129). The education that Mr. Temple warns against is an education that befits a boy, not a girl; educated by her father, and with ‘‘nobody to teach her the delicate graces and gentle virtues of a woman’’ (127), Christina learns to ‘‘read the classical authors of Greece and Rome,’’ to ride a horse, to shoot and hunt, and to dance—her only ‘‘feminine accomplishment’’ (127). As Laura Laffrado has pointed out, Christina thus becomes ‘‘a sexless monster, a denier of treasured stereotypes and so an anti-woman’’ (129). It is this danger—of the loss of femininity—that serves as a warning to readers about the risks of an improper education for girls.1 The concern regarding proper education for girls and women is carried throughout the next decade and beyond, both in midnineteenth -century public discourse and by Hawthorne again in his 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. While ‘‘Queen Christina’’ serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when young women depart from traditional gender norms and when girls’ education goes awry, The House of the Seven Gables offers up a model for not only the ideally educated modern young woman but also one that successfully merges capitalist values with domesticity in the character of Phoebe Pyncheon. As many scholars, including Gillian Brown, Keiko Arai, and T. Walter Herbert have noted, Phoebe serves, both in the space of the novel and for Hawthorne’s midnineteenth -century American audience, as a prototype for the middleclass American woman in a society increasingly structured by capitalist paradigms. Her model of domestic education, with its emphasis on industry and productivity, parallels shifts in the economy outside the domestic space. In the increasingly industrialized nation and its emergent middle class, hard work and productivity were celebrated as markers of a new class of workers, a class built upon a turn away from aristocratic values and social systems. This supplantation is especially evident in the juxtaposition between Phoebe and her cousin Hepzibah Pyncheon, who, along with the house in which she lives, represents these Old World values—as well as Old World models of a ‘‘decorative’’ female education contingent upon separate spheres ideology—that nineteenth-century America was leaving...