As for Me and My House

by Sinclair Ross

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What is the role of women in As For Me and My House?

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As For Me and My House by Canadian author Sinclair Ross was first published in 1941 and reflects the position of women in Canadian society during the period just before the second world war. Set during the Great Depression, the novel is the story of the lives of Mrs. Bentley, the protagonist and viewpoint character, and her husband Philip, a minister of the United Church in a small town of Horizon. The title emphasizes the way religion has become not so much a calling as a duty to the couple; it is taken from a Biblical passage: 

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

This suggests that there is a religious rationale for both Mr. and Mrs. Bentley to suppress their own talents, interests, and desires in favor of serving the church. This is even more the case for Mrs. Bentley as she is doubly subordinated both to the church and the interests of her husband. She suggests that her marriage has deprived her of the opportunity to pursue her career in music:

Before I met him I had ambitions too ... But he came and the piano took second place ... I forgot it all, almost overnight ...  For right from the beginning I knew that with Philip it was the only way. Women weren't necessary or important to him ... Submitting to him that way, yielding my identity -- it seemed the way life was intended ....

The society described is a patriarchal one in which women are subordinated to men. Both Mrs. Bentley and Judith have as their roles primarily catering to masculine needs. Although parishioners enjoy Mrs. Bentley's piano playing, it does not provide her with a career or the economic independence that would make her marriage more equal. She is also judged as a failure by the ladies of the parish because of her inability to provide children for her husband. Her subordination is emphasized by the fact that we do not discover her first name but that she is only known to us as Mrs. Bentley, the wife of Philip.

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