Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House (published in 1941) is about the life of a Protestant minister's wife in the small, fictional town of Horizon. The wife is never named, but her attitude of disenchantment and sense of oppression are palpable throughout her first-person narration. The narrator evinces that she has made many sacrifices as a minister's wife. She explains that when she and her husband met, about a dozen years ago, she could do a fair amount of the manual labor:
I could use the pliers and hammer twice as well myself, with none of his muttering or smashed-up fingers either, but in the parsonage, on calling days, it simply isn't done. In return for a thousand dollars a year, they expect some sort of genteel kind fo piety, a well-bred Christianity that will serve as an example to the little sons and daughters of the town. It was twelve years ago that I first learned my lesson, one day when they caught me in the woodshed making kindling of a packing box. "Surely this isn't necessary, Mrs. Bentley—your position in the community—and Mr. Bentley being such a big, able-bodied man—"
So today I let him be the man about the house, and sat on a trunk among the litter, serenely making curtains over for the double-windows in the living room. (5)
This quote demonstrates the nature of Mrs. Bentley's self-perceived position. She is forced into a domesticity that is not in fact her nature, and it stifles her abilities.
It is heavily suggested (though never disclosed) that her husband, Philip, has had an affair with Judith. Judith is a young girl who formerly lived in the city and returned to Horizon as an expression of unconventionality. Her appearance singing in the church choir is described as follows:
The wind was too strong for Philip or the choir, but Judith scaled it when she sang alone again before the closing hymn. The rest of us, I think, were vaguely and secretly a little afraid. The strum and whimper were wearing on our nerves. But Judith seemed to respond to it, ride up with it, feel it the way a singer feels an orchestra. There was something feral in her voice, that even the pace and staidness of her hymn could not restrain. (51)
This quote demonstrates how Judith stands apart from the rest of the congregation. It also represents something of a personal affront to the narrator (Philip's wife), who formerly loved music (specifically the piano) but has resigned herself to a life without music—and without passion.