Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 765
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman wrote a wonderful short story “The Revolt of Mother” depicting a character of a courageous woman Sarah Penn. Freeman’s “The Revolt of Mother” contains a serious analysis of the difficulties a woman confronts when attempting to realize her interests. Despite the conventional authority of man in the late 19th century, Sarah Penn dares to struggle in unjust social relations.

The Role of Woman in the Society in the Late 19th in “The Revolt of Mother”

The protagonist, Sarah Penn, is described as a small and childish looking woman with strong will. “She was a small woman, short and straight-waisted like a child in her brown cotton gown. Her forehead was mild and benevolent between the smooth curves of gray hair; there were meek downward lines about her nose and mouth; but her eyes, fixed upon the old man, looked as if the meekness had been the result of her own will, never of the will of another”, – the author’s words demonstrate natural meekness in the character of Sarah (Freeman 445). From the very beginning, the author depicts her heroine as respectful and honored. Sarah Penn is a hard worker in the rural farm in New England. She is honest and obedient woman. The protagonist is a woman who wants comfort and beauty for her family. Anyway, it is a complicated task to obtain authority in unjust social relations and to have all her desires fulfilled.

Freeman emphasizes the role of woman in the society with refusal of Sarah’s husband Adoniram to engage in any meaningful dialogue with her. However, Sarah clearly seeks the way to elevate the meaning of her point of view. She insists on the injustice in the house she lives in and life she has. Soon, she discovers that although Adoniram would justify his authority as reasonable, he himself does not need to listen to the reason when it threatens his interests.

The conflict in the story was caused by the barn. Adoniram builds a barn on the place where he promised their future house would be. Sarah is not satisfied with her husband’s decision and since “plain talks” had no result, Sarah feels that the action is needed. The shame of having her daughter’s wedding in their house is a push on her way to revolt: “I’ve been thinking — I don’t see how we’re goin’ to have any — wedding in this room. I’d be ashamed to have his folks come if we didn’t have anybody else”.

Adoniram’s quick departure is a signal for Sarah: “S’posin’ I had wrote, an’ asked him if he knew of any horse? But I didn’t, an’ father’s goin’ wa’n’t none of my doin’. It looks like a providence”. She consciously associates herself with providence. However, when she occupies the new barn, she appears to others as “crazy” and “lawless and rebellious spirit”. The sense that she could have written the letter that motivates subsequent events subsequent events indicates that she is becoming more conscious of her power to produce changes, to be “like a providence”.

Sarah Penn’s character is shown in development. When the story opens, she takes the refusal of her husband and convinces herself and her daughter that they have no reason to complain: “A good father an’ a good home as you’ve got. S’pose your father made you go out an’ work for your livin’? Lots of girls have to that ain’t no stronger an’ better able to than you be”. But by the end of the story, she becomes a warrior. Mr Hersey came to put down her rebellion, but she easily defeats this “pathetic” fellow, whose “youthful confidence had cooled [and who now] had to scourge himself up to some of his pastoral duties as relentlessly as a Catholic ascetic, and then he was prostrated by the smart”. According to Church, “Like Adoniram and the barn, he and his theology appear somewhat vacant structures over which Sarah will assume a certain command” (198). Sarah Penn wins her revolt and her husband by the end of the story and is described as being “like a fortress whose walls had no active resistance, and went down the instant the right besieging tools were used”. 

Simple domestic conflict filled with historic background makes the story an authentic example of woman struggling for her interests against the society. Throughout the story, there are several situations in which the warrior spirit of Sarah Penn arouses deliberately disobeying thte man’s authority. The protagonist becomes a warrior who defeats all obstacles on her way. Sarah Penn’s character will forever demonstrate the importance and necessity of self-discovery and individual growth.

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