Yes, campers, we are almost ready to say goodbye to the turn of the (20th) Century, with all its concomitant hoo-ha. We can't let it go without a few remarks, though, and a few more questions.
Has anybody been paying attention to the portrait of marriage that emerges in "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Second Choice," and Trifles? If you haven't, you might want to go back and do that, because it's unsettling. We have husbands being paternalistic ("The Yellow Wallpaper"), which is much better than husbands being abusive (Trifles), or being hapless dupes ("The Second Choice").
Notice that in all three of the marriages and near-marriages, the woman is trapped and helpless. No one listens to her, no one understands who she really is, and no one is on her side, when things go bad. Even Theodore Dreiser's Shirley is stuck in the belief that her life has to contain a husband, albeit a stout, dull, uninteresting one. How sucky is that?
People who believe that the women's movement was just a lot of -- pardon me -- hysteria, need to remember that women really were at the mercy of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Some lucky women married men who respected and admired them, and encouraged their intelligence. Others, though, married men like John in "The Yellow Wallpaper," men who believed they had weak brains, hair-trigger nerves, and limited usefulness. There's not much worse than having a lot of intelligence and talent and being denied the opportunity to use those things in productive work.
And while we're on the subject of marriage, let's think about the different responses of some women. Shirley, in "The Second Choice," is forced to let go of Arthur because, well, he was never hers to begin with, and he had the good sense to go and stay gone. But Emily Grierson, in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," now there's a woman who knows how to hang onto a man. Which of them is the stronger? Who would you rather see dating your brother? We thought so.
Shirley falls victim to her own romantic fantasy, and when it collapses, she blames herself. A clearer thinker would blame Arthur, but she's not one of those. Emily, on the other hand, has a brain that is as clear as a bell, even if she's as mad as a weasel -- she knows that Homer Barron is likely to leave again, and she's going to make sure he doesn't. Fortunately, among her requirements for the perfect man, she does not list a pulse.
If I have a favorite among these women, it might be Mrs. Hale, from Trifles, who is an excellent detective and who has all kinds of brains, but Emily Grierson is a close second. I don't admire her -- it would be like having a fondness for dirty sheets -- but I respect her. She doesn't lie around all day being helpless, waiting for someone else to fix her life.