The Wide, Wide World, Susan Warner
The Wide, Wide World Susan Warner
The following entry presents criticism of Warner's novel The Wide, Wide World (1850).
One of the most widely read American novels of the nineteenth-century, The Wide, Wide World established Susan Warner as the nation's preeminent sentimental novelist. Bearing Warner's pseudonym Elizabeth Wetherell, the novel spawned a series of similar works published by “the author of The Wide, Wide World,” a contrivance that would allowed Warner, as one of America's first bestselling writers, to largely maintain her anonymity. Noted for its accurate portrayal of the social limitations imposed upon nineteenth-century women, The Wide, Wide World traces the maturation of a young girl, Ellen Montgomery, from childhood to adolescence. Though generally valued less for its literary merit than for its historical significance, the work is considered one of the earliest examples of the domestic novel—a genre focused on the lives of ordinary women that became extremely fashionable after 1850. Frequently dismissed by the majority of twentieth-century critics as overly sentimental, the novel was “rediscovered” more than a century after its first publication by feminist scholars who have begun the process of evaluating it as an outstanding, if long since marginalized, example of popular literature written by women.
Born in New York City in 1819, Warner was the daughter of a prominent and ambitious lawyer, Henry Whiting Warner. Educated by private tutors, she studied literature, music, French, and Italian. In 1828 her mother died, and her paternal aunt moved into the household to care for Warner and her younger sister Anna. Her father's successful investments in real estate enabled the family to move several times to successively more affluent neighborhoods, and Warner frequently attended fashionable social gatherings as a young woman. However, an economic downturn in 1837 forced the family to retreat from their mansion at St. Mark's Place to an old farmhouse on Constitution Island. During the next ten years, her father's failing law practice and his involvement in several lawsuits over his property furthered the family's financial difficulties. In 1848, urged by her aunt, Warner began work on The Wide, Wide World with the hope that the novel would serve as a source of income. After being rejected by several publishers, The Wide, Wide World was issued in a limited edition in 1850. Demand for the book exceeded the initial expectations of the publisher; reissued through fourteen editions in the next two years, The Wide, Wide World established an unprecedented record for sales. Encouraged by the success of her first novel, Warner wrote Queechy (1852), another novel portraying the development of a young girl. Throughout the next three and a half decades, Warner remained on Constitution Island and continued writing, producing more than thirty works of her own and six in collaboration with her sister, Anna. None of Warner's subsequent novels, however, achieved the same level of popular success as The Wide, Wide World, which remained in print for almost 80 years and was widely translated. In 1987, after decades of public neglect, the novel was reissued by the Feminist Press in an enlarged edition that featured a concluding chapter written by Warner but dropped by her original publisher.
Plot and Major Characters
At the beginning of The Wide, Wide World young Ellen Montgomery's father has lost a lawsuit, and the family doctor has prescribed a vacation for Ellen's severely ill mother. Because of the family's limited resources, her father, the unfeeling Captain Montgomery, decides to leave Ellen with her aunt in a small, rural village while taking his wife on a business trip to Europe. Separated from the love of her tender and devout mother, Ellen is mistreated by her spiteful aunt, Miss Fortune Emerson, who denies her requests for a formal education and withholds her mother's letters. Ellen suffers from the undeserved punishments and neglect of her aunt, yet obtains support and spiritual guidance from Alice and John Humphreys, the children of a local minister. A devout Christian, Ellen finds solace with the Humphreys and later goes to live with them in order to take care of Alice when she falls ill. Alice dies, as does Ellen's mother, and Captain Montgomery forces his daughter to move to Scotland and enter the household of the Lindsays, relatives of her deceased mother. Proving themselves even crueler than Aunt Fortune, the Lindsays treat Ellen as little more than property. They force Ellen to relinquish her identity as an American and criticize her faith. Nevertheless, she continues to find strength in her resilient Christian piety and in her correspondence with John Humphreys in America. Eventually, John arrives in Scotland with assurances that her life will be happy again if she becomes his wife upon reaching the proper age. With the suggestion that Ellen and John will marry, Warner's novel, as originally published, ends. In a concluding chapter, restored in the 1987 edition, Ellen returns to America, and she and John are presented as a married couple.
Since the action of The Wide, Wide World focuses on Ellen Montgomery's emotional, intellectual, and spiritual maturation from young girl to adult woman, critics have frequently viewed the work within the generic context of the bildungsroman, with its defining themes of personal and social development. In addition to being a narrative of Ellen's growth, however, the novel also features a strongly Christian message as Ellen, after suffering a reversal of financial fortune, the loss of her mother, exile from her homeland, and ill treatment at the hands of others, learns to overcome her feelings of vulnerability and helplessness by finding strength in her insurmountable religious devotion. In this sense, critics have viewed The Wide, Wide World as a sort of primer in Christian morality, observing that Ellen's sufferings eventually bring rewards as she learns to trust in her unshakable faith. Similarly, the novel has also been interpreted as an example of Christian allegory, analogous to that found in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a work that, after the Bible, is Ellen's most treasured book. Additionally, The Wide, Wide World illustrates a collection of more properly sentimental or domestic themes centered on Ellen's circumscribed role as a young, middle-class woman living in the mid-nineteenth century. With only an extremely limited control over the direction of her own fate, she must accept and endure the choices made by her father until she finds another man (in this case, the admirable John Humphreys) willing to save her by making her his wife. Such elements of the novel have been of particular interest to contemporary feminist critics eager to explore the acculturated gender dynamics and historical realities of women's lives depicted in the The Wide, Wide World.
Extraordinarily popular in the United States and England upon its publication, The Wide, Wide World elicited a broad range of responses, with many reviewers admiring its respectable heroine, charming storyline, and steadfastly Christian content. Generally appealing to dominant Victorian sensibilities, the novel was extremely well received by most. Some critics, however, took exception to the immoderate emotionalism of Warner's novel, as characterized by the excessive weeping of its heroine, and to the fervid religiosity of the work. A few criticized the author's verbose prose style and other stylistic shortcomings, and some dismissed the work outright. Such negative perceptions of The Wide, Wide World predominated for much of the twentieth century, during which time the novel's heavy reliance on the tropes of feminine sentimentality and religious allegory provided ground enough to condemn the book. Nevertheless, a number of more recent scholars have emphasized the difficulty of properly interpreting the nineteenth-century religious and moral values expressed in the work from a contemporary perspective. Recent critics have also remarked on changes in taste over the decades, with twentieth-century scholars admiring Warner's skilled evocation of New England local color as exemplified in the diction of her rural characters, an aspect of the work that Victorian audiences tended to dislike in favor of Ellen's genteel—but to the modern ear stilted—English. Likewise, Ellen's unswerving and self-assured religious faith has frequently struck critics as making her seem unintentionally smug or sanctimonious. Infrequently read, and its interest restricted almost exclusively to feminist scholars, The Wide, Wide World has become a central text in the contemporary discourse on nineteenth-century women's fiction in America, with commentators examining the dynamics of oppression delineated in the story, and disputing whether or not religion functions as a submission to patriarchal authority in the novel. In most cases, modern critics have focused on gendered themes in the work and concluded that the control exercised over Ellen by her father, husband, and other relatives represents an accurate portrayal of the constraints imposed upon nineteenth-century women in making decisions governing their own lives. Given these qualities, The Wide, Wide World serves critics as a valuable historical and literary document of nineteenth-century female experience.
The Wide, Wide World [as Elizabeth Wetherell] (novel) 1850
American Female Patriotism: A Prize Essay (essay) 1852
Queechy [as Elizabeth Wetherell] (novel) 1852
Carl Krinken: His Christmas Stocking [with Anna Warner] (children's literature) 1853
The Hills of the Shatemuc (novel) 1856
Say and Seal [with Anna Warner] (novel) 1860
Hymns for Mothers and Children (children's literature) 1861
The Golden Ladder: Stories Illustrative of the Eight Beatitudes [with Anna Warner] (children's literature) 1862
The Old Helmet (novel) 1863
Melbourne House (novel) 1864
Daisy (novel) 1868
Daisy in the Field (novel) 1869
Opportunities (novel) 1871
“What She Could” (novel) 1871
The House in Town (novel) 1872
Sceptres and Crowns (novel) 1874
Bread and Oranges (novel) 1875
The Flag of Truce (novel) 1875
The Gold of Chickaree [with Anna Warner] (novel) 1876
The Rapids of Niagara (novel) 1876
Wych Hazel [with Anna Warner] (novel) 1876
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SOURCE: Review of The Wide, Wide World. Prospective Review 15 (1853): 314-39.
[In the following excerpt, the reviewer describes The Wide, Wide World as an excellent example of morally didactic literature for children but critiques some of its stylistic qualities.]
Except Amy Herbert, we never read a child's story to compare in interest with the Wide, Wide World; and as it has gone far through the wide worlds of England and America, and received a large share of attention from the readers of fiction here and there, it claims, we think, with its sister story, some notice at our hands. We have lately spoken of the important influence acquired by fiction, and the functions of the critic respecting it. But if he is called upon to interpret its deep truths, and explore its hidden meanings, and detect its subtle beauties, and if he is to determine the laws of taste that should be observed by creative genius, no less certain is it, that he should endeavour to expose the moral fallacies and religious errors which appear to him to mar the perfection of a noble and life-like production, and to make the valuable ally of reverence and reason, to some extent at least, the generator of false sentiment or unreal doctrine.
We enter upon the criticism of these books with no narrow prejudice or sectarian animosity; we have been delighted as well as instructed by them. None...
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SOURCE: Review of The Wide, Wide World. Southern Literary Messenger 20, no. 4 (April 1854): 214-16.
[In the following excerpted review, the critic calls The Wide, Wide World “the most delightful tale that has probably ever been written.”]
We have no intention of criticising any production of [Susan Warner's] pen, and only fear that we shall be guilty of extravagance in speaking of her writings. We well recollect our first perusal of the Wide Wide World, and we then predicted its success. It deserved to succeed if a pure and beautiful work of Art, full of the most exalted piety, and as true to life and human nature as reality itself, deserve success. Queechy, which followed it was its twin sister; and if the features were somewhat more arch and changeable and inviting, there was no such difference in the heart. The two books were dedicated to a single idea, and surely a grand idea! In both the object is to paint every-day life with its pleasures and annoyances, its sunshine and shadow, its joys and sufferings: and then, as a frame to the picture, a burden to the strain, to indicate the source from which humanity may gather strength to resist the trials of the world. Many sermons are preached in other places than the pulpit. We think that Miss Warner's works are among the strongest and most beautiful. Certain critics have taken exception to the variety of gifts united in her...
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SOURCE: Foster, Edward Halsey. “The Perils of Apostasy.” In Susan and Anna Warner, pp. 34-53. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.
[In the following excerpt, Foster surveys the content and reception of The Wide, Wide World, considering the book “one of the first, and certainly the most famous domestic novel” in America. The critic continues by probing the reasons for its popularity in the nineteenth century as well as the principal sources of contemporary interest in the work.]
[The Wide, Wide World] was written in closest reliance upon God: for thoughts, for power, and for words. Not the mere vague wish to write a book that should do service to her Master: but a vivid, constant, looking to him for guidance and help [sic]: the worker and her work both laid humbly at the Lord's feet.
—Anna Warner, Susan Warner1
I A BOOK THAT WOULD SELL
Susan and Anna Warner spent most of their lives from 1838 until their deaths many decades later, in the old farmhouse, “Woodcrags,” on Constitution Island. It was here that most of their books were written. The first was begun in the winter of 1847-48. Anna wrote it as part of a children's game, Robinson Crusoe's Farmyard, which she had devised to teach natural history to children. The game included twenty-four hand-painted cards...
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SOURCE: Brodhead, Richard H. “Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America.” Representations, no. 21 (winter 1988): 67-96.
[In the following excerpt, Brodhead explores the acculturated psychodynamics of Ellen's reliance on her mother, and the effects of the latter's death.]
Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1851), which went on to become one of the four or five most widely read American novels of the whole nineteenth century, is often cited as the first of the new bestsellers. And it is Warner's book that offers the most impressive recognition of discipline through love as a culture-specific historical formation. The Wide, Wide World is a historical novel in a systematically restricted sense of the word. Throughout the book Warner poses the extradomestic world outside of her sphere, in a place unavailable to her literary knowing. Its initial harmony devastated by a lawsuit, neither the book's characters nor the book itself can get access to the transprivate world in which they could know what the suit's occasion was. Through the same strict observation of the limits of her sphere, Warner makes history in the usual sense unavailable to her knowing: what is going on in the world outside of certain family spaces is, in this book, a sealed book. But if she fails to locate her characters' private lives in relation to any sort of generalized process of collective...
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SOURCE: Schnog, Nancy. “Inside the Sentimental: The Psychological Work of The Wide, Wide World.” Genders, no. 4 (spring 1989): 11-25.
[In the following essay, Schnog declares that The Wide, Wide World is a complex, psychological portrait of feminine sentiment.]
In the past few years Susan Warner's sentimental novel The Wide Wide World, one of nineteenth-century America's most popular novels and the nation's first best-seller, has been at the center of some of the most provocative and detailed discussions of the mechanics and politics of sentimentality.1 A decade ago, on the margin of this revival, Warner's novel was typically regarded as a subliterary fiction that peddled comfortable dreams and cheerful platitudes to a large and undemanding middle-class readership.2 More recently, in the wake of feminist re-evaluations of nineteenth-century women's fiction, scholars have begun to uncover Warner's multivocal handling of social and political themes as well as her positive imaging of female independence and self-assertion. Once thought to advocate an “ethos of conformity” and women's “unquestioning submission to authority,”3The Wide Wide World is now more often perceived as projecting and celebrating models of female autonomy and power.4 In the latest and perhaps most sophisticated analysis of this theme, Jane Tompkins has...
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SOURCE: White, Isabelle. “Anti-Individualism, Authority, and Identity: Susan Warner's Contradictions in The Wide, Wide World.” American Studies 31, no. 2 (fall 1990): 31-41.
[In the following essay, White places The Wide, Wide World in the ideological context of nineteenth-century America and states that the work represents the conflict between the individual and authority during a period of developing capitalism.]
During the 1850s, the decade that culminated in the Civil War, competing interests struggled to shape a definition of America. Issues at stake were whether the national identity would be defined by slave states or free states, by agrarian interests or industrial-capitalist interests, and by what were coming to be perceived as men's interests or women's interests. Popular fiction, perhaps most clearly among literary texts, reflects such issues. And at least sometimes, it goes beyond simply endorsing readers' values and validating their world views to crystalize issues and to attempt to influence the values that will determine the direction the culture takes.1 Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1850), the first American novel to sell more than a million copies, made such an attempt.2
This book, which has been said to “represent in its purest form an entire body of work that this century's critical tradition has ignored,”...
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SOURCE: Williams, Susan S. “Widening the World: Susan Warner, Her Readers, and the Assumption of Authorship.” American Quarterly 42, no. 4 (December 1990): 565-86.
[In the following essay, Williams remarks on Warner's initial resistance to being labeled a sentimental novelist.]
“Sue, I believe if you would try, you could write a story.” Thus, according to her sister Anna, did Susan Warner's Aunt Fanny unceremoniously suggest that she write a novel. Anna then qualified this anecdote: “Whether she added ‘that would sell,’ I am not sure; but of course that was what she meant.”1 The less pragmatic version of this account appeals to the image of Warner as a sentimental novelist. It seems appropriate to locate the genesis of her authorship in a conversation between aunt and niece that, in its emphasis on success through “trying,” tacitly encodes the virtues of discipline and self-suffering that inform Warner's The Wide, Wide World. Fanny's implicit assumption about marketability, however, is equally important to an understanding of this genesis. “Susan had always had literary ambitions,” reported George Haven Putnam, son of Warner's original publisher, “but it was the pressure for money that constituted the immediate incentive to the writing of The Wide, Wide World.2
The financial constraints that prompted...
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SOURCE: Hovet, Grace Ann, and Theodore R. Hovet. “Identity Development in Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World: Relationship, Performance and Construction.” Legacy 8, no. 1 (spring 1991): 3-16.
[In the following essay, the critics read The Wide, Wide World as a sophisticated rendering of feminine identity construction that has been falsely dismissed by many as mere sentimental fiction.]
I. READING THE SENTIMENTAL
Recent critical readings of the 1850 bestseller The Wide, Wide World disagree on whether Susan Warner's frequent depictions of tears of grief, rage, helplessness or joy—scenes which seem so emotionally excessive to many readers today—convey a critique of patriarchal domination or a justification for feminine submission to it. But these readings agree in that they all treat such sentimental scenes as Warner's attempt at a direct or transparent transcription of feminine behavior. Ellen's character, in short, is seen primarily in terms of emotional responses to events or circumstances.1
This literal reading of sentimental characterization fails to do justice to the narrative and psychological complexity of the novel. It is true that Warner, like many other women writers, presents a stark opposition between feminine emotion and masculine instrumental power. But in the treatment of the interaction between these oppositions...
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SOURCE: Stewart, Veronica. “The Wild Side of The Wide, Wide World.” Legacy 11, no. 1 (spring 1994): 1-16.
[In the following essay, Stewart characterizes Nancy Vawse as a subversive trickster figure in The Wide, Wide World who provides a vital commentary on the use of power as represented in the novel.]
In Susan Warner's popular nineteenth-century novel, The Wide, Wide World, aged Mrs. Vawse supplies the most pertinent clue to a comprehension of her incorrigible granddaughter's role in the text when she informs us that Nancy Vawse does not return home “if there's a promise of a storm” (193). As a wild, unpredictable child of storm, aligned with nature and natural passions rather than with the dominant social conventions, Nancy escapes the cultural imperatives that require a self-willed command of all desires from the text's heroine, Ellen Montgomery. In keeping with the most articulated precepts of the “cult of domesticity,” as well as with the rhetoric of religious conversion that generally accompanied it, Ellen's rite of passage to womanhood involves a complete resignation to what Jane Tompkins calls an “ethic of submission” (162). Throughout Warner's novel, Ellen's adult advisors insist upon the need for her to curb every natural sentiment. These textual restraints on Ellen's behavior also reflect Warner's compliance with the accepted feminine ethos, the...
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SOURCE: Stewart, Veronica. “Mothering a Female Saint: Susan Warner's Dialogic Role in The Wide, Wide World.” Essays in Literature 22, no. 1 (spring 1995): 59-74.
[In the following essay, Stewart compares The Wide, Wide World with John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and asserts that Warner's novel is an allegorical, proto-feminist spiritual journey that confronts the dominant literary and religious ideologies associated with nineteenth-century Anglo-American domesticity.]
According to Anna Warner, one of the first reviews of her sister's novel praised The Wide, Wide World (hereafter WWW) as a book “capable of doing more good than any other work, other than the Bible” (344). Unfortunately, twentieth-century scholarship on Susan Warner's unprecedented bestselling novel rarely progresses beyond this oft-quoted Daily Advertiser review, reading both the novel and its author as simple embodiments of the most conservative and religious Victorian ideals (Tompkins, “Afterword” 585-86). Ironically, this limited assessment of the novel and its author emerges out of ground-breaking attempts on the part of gender-concerned scholars to rescue nineteenth-century women's fiction from obscurity and denigration. Rather than respond directly to critics who “trash” these so-called sentimental texts as inferior literary performances, Jane Tompkins, for example, sets...
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SOURCE: O'Connell, Catherine. “‘We Must Sorrow’: Silence, Suffering, and Sentimentality in Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World.” Studies in American Fiction 25, no. 1 (spring 1997): 21-39.
[In the following essay, O'Connell illuminates narrative tensions between Ellen's feminine subjectivity and the directives of male-gendered authority figures—a conflict that precipitates the protagonist's suffering in The Wide, Wide World.]
Since its “rediscovery,”1 Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World has posed a challenge to critical readers: what is the meaning of the relentless, excruciating focus on the suffering of the young female protagonist in this record-setting bestseller?2 The novel is structured around the trials of Ellen Montgomery and her subjective experience of pain. Suffering is a crucial narrative element of The Wide, Wide World and must be accounted for in any interpretation of the novel.
All recent critical considerations of The Wide, Wide World suggest theories about its depiction of suffering, and arguments about the novel's ideological meaning turn on how one understands the role of female suffering within the text. Jane Tompkins argues in Sensational Designs that through her suffering, the child Ellen learns a lesson in religious transcendence. By accepting suffering, Ellen supplants earthly...
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SOURCE: Quay, Sara E. “Homesickness in Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 18, no. 1 (spring 1999): 39-58.
[In the following essay, Quay relates Warner's use of nostalgia and loss in The Wide, Wide World to emerging nineteenth-century middle-class consumerism.]
Taken as a whole, Susan Warner's best-selling novel, The Wide, Wide World (1850), is about the experience of loss.1 In fact, the novel might be said to have been generated from the profound loss its author, as a young woman, experienced when her family moved from their home in New York City to an isolated existence on Constitution Island in upstate New York. A result of the family's financial ruin, the move separated Susan Warner from the life she had known to that point.2 She wrote in her journal soon afterward: “we have nothing to do with the world. Every human tie … is so broken and fastened off.”3 As if in response to this experience, Warner's novel, written while she lived on the island, centers around the losses undergone by its main character, Ellen Montgomery. After depicting early scenes in which Ellen is nestled safely at home with her mother, the novel goes on to record an extraordinary number of dislocations and separations. Warner's focus on loss was not just a personal preoccupation, but reflected a cultural one as well. The period...
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SOURCE: Ashworth, Suzanne M. “Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World, Conduct Literature, and Protocols of Female Reading in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America.” Legacy 17, no. 2 (2000): 141-64.
[In the following excerpt, Ashworth explains the thematic significance of Ellen's voracious reading and finds that this characteristic is an important mechanism of identity construction in The Wide, Wide World.]
“THE EYES OF HER MIND”: READING WITH SELF-APPLICATION
If [nineteenth-century] women readers were to begin with the interchangeable maxims “read with purpose” and “read no novels,” then they were supposed to end with an eye to their own betterment, translating purpose into self-application—into a regimen of self-examination and self-correction that was inspired by select texts and interpretive exercises. In archetypal terms, reading with self-application was supposed to create cultivated icons of ideal femininity. In the process, this trajectory of self-improvement quelled the threat of women's reading with the rubric of middle-class female virtue: piety, submissiveness, and benevolence. With successive portraits of its heroine reading, The Wide, Wide World intervenes in this mode of psychic construction, dramatizing the interplay between the eyes of Ellen Montgomery's mind, the book before her, and conduct-book calls for self-correction. Through it, we...
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SOURCE: Trubey, Elizabeth Fekete. “Imagined Revolution: The Female Reader and The Wide, Wide World.” Modern Language Studies 31, no. 2 (fall 2001): 57-74.
[In the following essay, Trubey evaluates the portrayal of women's reading in The Wide, Wide World as an instructional but potentially subversive activity.]
The act of reading plays an important thematic role throughout Susan Warner's 1850 bestseller, The Wide, Wide World.1 Ellen Montgomery, the novel's heroine, is often depicted with book in hand, turning to the Bible and other moralizing texts for comfort, edification, and direction. Warner relates Ellen's method of approaching texts, as well as the titles of the works she reads, in extensive detail. Indeed, books and readership are integral to the novel's sentimental message. They teach the young girl morality and Christ-like submission; however, almost counter-intuitively, books also open up for Ellen the possibility of imagined acts of rebellion. In as far as Ellen is a behavioral model for Warner's female readers,2 the cultural work performed by the girl's many interactions with texts is vital to an understanding of both Warner's contradictory vision of women's inner thoughts and outward behavior and the way Warner wanted her vast audience to approach The Wide, Wide World.
For the past fifteen years, The Wide, Wide...
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SOURCE: Argersinger, Jan L. “Family Embraces: The Unholy Kiss and Authorial Relations in The Wide, Wide World.” American Literature 74, no. 2 (June 2002): 251-85.
[In the following excerpt, Argersinger probes Warner's use of “authorial seduction” in The Wide, Wide World, a process of subtly eroticizing familial and power relations in the novel so as to draw in readers.]
In the originally unpublished final chapter of Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World, Ellen and her new husband, John Humphreys, stand together before a painting of the Madonna and child and consider its meaning. This ideal woman's beauty, John declares, exists as a mere transparency through which the viewer may perceive the light of transcendent truth, the Word of the divine Father. After briefly challenging this reading, Ellen evidently capitulates—but at the same time she tells another story about the painting directly to the reader, unheard by the ravishingly masterful husband:
It was merely two heads, the Madonna and child, … yet how much! The mother's face in calm beauty bent over that of the infant as if about to give the kiss her lips were already pouting for; the expression of grave maternal dignity and love; but in the child's uplifted deep blue eye there was a perfect heaven of affection, while the little mouth was parted, it might be either for a kiss or a...
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Barnes, Elizabeth. “Mothers of Seduction.” In States of Sympathy: Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel, pp. 100-14. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
Includes an investigation of Ellen's internalization of motherly love and authority in The Wide, Wide World as part of a wider discussion of maternal power and the mother-daughter bond depicted in the nineteenth-century sentimental novel.
Baym, Nina. “Susan Warner, Anna Warner, and Maria Cummins.” In Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-1870, pp. 140-74. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978.
Examines the novels The Wide, Wide World, Queechy, and The Hills of Shatemuc, focusing on the attempts of Warner's protagonists to adapt to a lack of control over their own lives.
Blair, Andrea. “Landscape in Drag: The Paradox of Feminine Space in Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World.” In The Greening of Literary Scholarship: Literature, Theory, and the Environment, edited by Steven Rosedale, pp. 111-30. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002.
Offers a semiotic analysis of feminized metaphors of landscape in The Wide, Wide World.
Brusky, Sarah. “Beyond the Ending of Maternal Absence in A New-England Tale, The Wide, Wide World,...
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