Reviews 975 captains to bring their wives with them to sea. The women who made this adventuresome choice found themselves isolated in a masculine workplace and far from the refined middle-class trappings of home, the sociability of female friends, and even their own children and kin. Ultimately, Norling is concerned with the hegemony of domestic ideology in American culture. It is striking that such an ideology should have triumphed among those to whom it was least suited: “Examining the gender dynamics in this particular location dramatically illustrates the necessity, pervasiveness, and thus the power of ideas and the language with which they are expressed, even when those ideas are painfully contradictory or implausible” (270). Captain Ahab Had a Wife is built upon meticulous research into the lives of 66 southern New England families, comprising 200 individuals and 90 marriages. Norling teases meaning from cryptic diary entries, mundane par- lor knick-knacks, dense account books, and reams of correspondence. The most intriguing sources come from a nineteenth-century New Bedford post- master: a bag of 155 dead letters, mailed to men at sea, but never received. These accidental artifacts, from across educational and class lines, show the very same commitment to domestic
Biography – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Sep 1, 2001
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