One of the most important themes in ‘‘The Revolt of ‘Mother’’’ is the distinction and reversal of traditional gender roles. Sarah’s initial acceptance of Adoniram’s building of the barn, despite his 40-year-old promise of building her a house on that spot, shows the prevalent belief that her duty is to follow her husband. Though Sarah does express her feelings to her husband, when he refuses to speak about the matter, she lets the subject drop, and the barn goes up. Adoniram’s refusal to truly listen to Sarah’s concerns throughout the story are clearly shown in his last words: ‘‘Why, mother, I hadn’t no idee you was so set on’t as all this comes to.’’ Throughout the story, Sarah has tried to explain her feelings but, Adoniram is not accustomed to listening to his wife.
One of Sarah’s most important roles, in addition to cooking her husband’s favorite meals and sewing shirts for him, is teaching Nanny these sex roles, and thus reinforcing them. When Nanny questions why her father would refuse to build his family a better house, Sarah explains that the ways of men are incomprehensible. When Nanny claims that her fiance would never act in a manner like her father, Sarah asserts that indeed he will one day. Sarah also defends Adoniram, pointing out that many other people do not live as well as the Penn family. In his instance, Sarah is fulfilling what she believes to be an important duty: engendering complete respect for the head of the household among her...
(The entire section is 624 words.)