"What did you mean?": Marriage in E. D. E. N. Southworth's Novels

"What did you mean?": Marriage in E. D. E. N. Southworth's Novels cindy weinstein California Institute of Technology entimental novels are filled with communication gone awry. This observation applies to the written word, as well as the spoken. For example, in The Wide, Wide World, Ellen Montgomery's Aunt Fortune withholds a treasured letter written to Ellen by her mother and, in doing so, reveals Aunt Fortune's arbitrary disciplinary regime (which is ultimately reversed by Alice Humphreys's intercession). Likewise, much of the plot of Caroline Lee Hentz's Ernest Linwood hinges on a misreading of a "marriage certificate" in which "the difference between the names of Henry Gabriel and Gabriel Henry St. James" goes unnoticed (440). E. D. E. N. Southworth's The Unloved Wife depends upon Lilith Wyvil's reading a "fatal letter" that first helps to destroy her marriage and then requires hundreds of pages to reconstitute it (91). As conventional as these devices of miscommunication are in sentimental novels of the period, I would submit that the works of E. D. E. N. Southworth reveal a complexity, indeed an urgency, about verbal exchanges.1 Thus, I shall explore how conversation itself, especially in the context of marriage, where the stakes, particularly for a woman, could not be higher, is the site where http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers University of Nebraska Press

"What did you mean?": Marriage in E. D. E. N. Southworth's Novels

Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, Volume 27 (1) – Jun 4, 2010

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University of Nebraska Press
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Copyright © University of Nebraska Press
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Abstract

cindy weinstein California Institute of Technology entimental novels are filled with communication gone awry. This observation applies to the written word, as well as the spoken. For example, in The Wide, Wide World, Ellen Montgomery's Aunt Fortune withholds a treasured letter written to Ellen by her mother and, in doing so, reveals Aunt Fortune's arbitrary disciplinary regime (which is ultimately reversed by Alice Humphreys's intercession). Likewise, much of the plot of Caroline Lee Hentz's Ernest Linwood hinges on a misreading of a "marriage certificate" in which "the difference between the names of Henry Gabriel and Gabriel Henry St. James" goes unnoticed (440). E. D. E. N. Southworth's The Unloved Wife depends upon Lilith Wyvil's reading a "fatal letter" that first helps to destroy her marriage and then requires hundreds of pages to reconstitute it (91). As conventional as these devices of miscommunication are in sentimental novels of the period, I would submit that the works of E. D. E. N. Southworth reveal a complexity, indeed an urgency, about verbal exchanges.1 Thus, I shall explore how conversation itself, especially in the context of marriage, where the stakes, particularly for a woman, could not be higher, is the site where

Journal

Legacy: A Journal of American Women WritersUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jun 4, 2010

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