Essay: The Story of Avis

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This is an essay on The Story of Avis. Avis’s tragedy occurs not because of the nature of one man but because of the whole institution of marriage and the male dominated society.

Avis’s tragedy occurs not because of the nature of one man but because of the whole institution of marriage and the male dominated society. At one point Philip is described as speaking to Avis “more tenderly than a husband who has been six months married may be expected to speak upon an especially busy day.” (Phelps 142) these words make the attack on marriage even clearer, and making Philip so ordinary she shows that what Avis is going through is very common and accepted by the society. So she gives up her ambition and dreams and answers to the call to domesticate herself as the narrator of the novel says:

Women understand–only women altogether–what a dreary will-o-the-wisp is this old, common, I had almost said commonplace, experience, “When the fall sewing is done,” “When the baby can walk,” “When house-cleaning is over,” “When the company has gone,” “When we have got through with the whooping-cough,” “When I am a little stronger,” then I will write the poem, or learn the language, or study great charity, or master the symphony; then I will act, dare, dream, become. Merciful is the fate that hides from any soul the prophecy of its still-born aspirations. (Phelps 149)

The Feminist Lucy Stone was very impressed with this book and felt that its message would give it “a permanent place in English literature.” (Kessler 124) Phelps shows repeatedly that the notion of blissful domesticity is just an idealistic fantasy and reality is very different. In the end Avis refuses to be bogged down by the male dominated roles reserved for women.  What Phelps concentrates on is women’s financial reliance on men, the unconstructive consequences of impractical female ideals, and the careers for women, and primarily the debate on marriage. The novel even today is relevant in its feministic ideas.

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