As a Bildungsroman, Housekeeping revises the male tradition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951). With its strong female protagonist who rejects traditional domestic roles, the novel is comparable to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Despite the absence of male characters and the story’s emphasis on female experience, male readers are not excluded from the novel.
Reminiscent of Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), Housekeeping’s local color flavor indelibly evokes its Pacific Northwest setting and emphasizes a deep sense of place. Readers might also notice the influence of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854), in which Thoreau relates his solitary experience of keeping house in the woods near Walden Pond. Housekeeping was Robinson’s first novel, and she also wrote a nonfiction book, Mother Country (1989), which exposes the British government’s irresponsible operation of the environmentally hazardous Sellafield nuclear power processing plant.