What are Sarah (Revolt of a Mother) and Louisa (A New England Nun) similarities and differences in characters as far as chasing their dreams?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's body of work is consistent in its treatment of the topic of women's rights.

In the story "The Revolt of Mother" we find the main character of Sarah, a woman who has been married to her husband Adoniram for over forty years, sheepishly asking him to use the time, money, and energy that he is using to build a new, big barn into building a bigger home for the family.

This is not done out of caprice. The family does need a bigger home and has needed a bigger home for quite some time. However, Wilkins Freeman contrasts the stubborn nature of Adoniram and the submissive nature of Sarah to show how her genuine needs are not been met by her husband. Adoniram seems to be quite selfish and does not take his wife into consideration, even after all these years. Moreover, he does not consider the fact that his daughter Nanny's wedding is coming up and that by tradition, she would have to hold her wedding in their home, which is a small and shabby house.

However, Sarah takes the initiative to wait until her husband is gone and to move the family into the barn. The final straw for Saran was Nanny's wedding. She would never allow for her daughter not to have a good place to celebrate her wedding. Moreover, she will no longer allow her husband to lead the way.

The way that Sarah chases her dream is by taking the lead of her life into her own hands. She realizes that her begging and her patience do not pay off. Wilkins Freeman wisely contrasts Sarah's submissive nature and Adoniram's selfish chauvinism to show how Sarah's dreams are entirely dependent on someone who does not care about anyone else's feelings. Sarah does care about everyone's feelings. Therefore, it is only fair that she acts for herself and her children and defeats the obstacles in her way by facing them head on.

In "Louisa (A New England Nun)" the character of Louisa also has a dream: She dreams of simply being her own person, leading her own life, and keeping the life of peaceful solitude that she has become used to as a result of her fiance's absence of fourteen years. As a woman in the late 19th century, Louisa is expected to be married. It is the social norm of her time, and an expectation that would otherwise render her a social misfit. However, these years that she has spent waiting for him (quite happily, as it seems), have shown her that there is an element of happiness in a life of self-contemplation.

In Louisa's case, her obstacle is the social expectation of marriage. She is obviously not interested and is going through the engagement process dully, only because it is what she is asked to do. Yet, when she breaks the engagement she takes her fate into her own hands, the same way that Sarah does in "The Revolt of Mother". In Louisa's final farewell, she honestly tells her fiance

"no cause of complaint against him, she [has] lived so long in one way that she [shrinks] from making a change.’’

In the end, both Sarah and Louisa see that their risk pays off. They both become the owners and leaders of their realms. Sarah gets the home that she deserves and Louisa gets the life that she lives. In a way, both women aim to become the leaders of their lives but men get in the way. Both, however, achieve it.

In Louisa's own thoughts, she feels like a queen who,

after fearing lest her domain be wrested away from her, sees it firmly insured in her possession.

Therefore, against all odds, both women became "queens".

Read the study guide:
The Revolt of 'Mother'

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