Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Home-maker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (who published her fiction under her maiden name, Dorothy Canfield, and her nonfiction under her married name), explores the problems implicit in ascribing roles to individuals based on their gender, rather than on their specific talents, abilities, and desires. The turning point of the novel occurs when Lester Knapp loses his job in the accounting office at Willing’s Emporium. Devastated by this development, Lester contemplates suicide, but he must make his death look like an accident if Eva and the children are to receive any insurance money. He sees his chance when his neighbor’s roof catches fire. He slips and falls trying to put the fire out, but he does not die; instead, he is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

The task of supporting the family now falls on Eva’s shoulders, and she asks Jerome Willing to hire her. Although Eva keeps repeating to herself and members of her community the aphorism that a woman’s first duty is to her home and her family, Eva loves her new job, which calls on her aesthetic abilities in working with fabric. Eva begins as a stock clerk in the ladies’ cloak and suits department and quickly moves up to saleswoman. She takes great pleasure in knowing her stock and helping her customers find the clothes that will best suit them at a price they can afford.

Meanwhile, Lester runs the household, learning how to cook and devising creative ways to clean....

(The entire section is 543 words.)