Chapters 1 - 4 Summary and Analysis

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

The Feminine Mystique cover image

New Characters

Alfred Kinsey: sex researcher who produced groundbreaking research studies about American sexual behavior during the mid-twentieth century.

Erik Erikson: psychologist who described the “identity crisis” most people face at adolescence as a rite of passage essential to human growth and development.

Lucy Stone: nineteenth-century feminist who fought for women's intellectual freedom and publicized the then-unconventional terms of her marriage.

Sigmund Freud: Austrian psychoanalyst who developed sex- and gender-based theories of human development that Friedan says were misused in order to curb women's potential.

Summary

Betty Friedan launches her nonfiction account of the twentieth-century crisis among American women by describing their trouble as so deeply ingrained that few people can see it. She calls the trouble with women’s identity “the problem that has no name” and says it has no name because women are told to believe—and often do believe—that “the problem” doesn’t exist. The problem, as Friedan describes it, is that women are increasingly taught to believe that their existence and happiness is limited to the roles of spouse, mother, and housewife. Because so few women are able to recognize that these roles are limited or that they might be unhappy with them, the problem has “no name.”

She notes that by 1950, the media no longer showed images of...

(The entire section is 2999 words.)