It was published in September of 1890 in New England right after the civil war. During this time period a story with a woman’s point of view was very rare. Sarah Penn who is known as the mother in this short story was a devoted wife who was patiently waiting for a new home that was promised by her husband, Adoniram Penn, for forty years. She always made sure that her husband needs and wants were met at a high standard. She noticed he was building a barn on a lot that is a part of their property.
This lot was where he promised their new home would be built. She voiced her concern and he ignored her. Her son knew what was going on, but her and her daughter where left out of the equation because men at the time thought they were not obligated to discuss business with women. She took matters into her own hands and “revolted”. She moved her home into the barn when her husband was gone on a business trip and man did that shock him. The question is, is this much more than a realistic fiction story. Was Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s story about something beyond what we think? Let’s start out with a huge correlation between the bible and “The Revolt of Mother”.
In Brian Whites article, “‘In the Humble Fashion of a Scripture Woman’: The Bible as Besieging Too in Freeman’s ‘The Revolt of Mother ‘’, White aligns this story with multiple stories in the bible. Starting with how the choice of names, which are biblical, in Freeman’s story and how it aligns ironically with the two main characters. In the Bible Sarah in the book of Genesis and Sarah Penn were both women of patience and both waited decades for a promise. Sarah of Genesis waits around twenty-five years for God to keep his promise to give her a son (Gen. 12:1-4; 17:17). Sarah Penn waited for forty years on the promise that her husband would build her a new home (Freeman 448).
White also informs the similarity of both Adoniram in the bible and Adoniram Penn. Adoniram Penn shares certain alarming characteristics with his biblical namesake. White stated, “The Adoniram of 1 Kings is a taskmaster appointed by King Solomon to oversee the work of forced laborers (1 Kings 4:6; 5:14). After Solomon’s death, those laborers ask the newly crowned Rehoboam to lighten their oppressive burdens; Rehoboam refuses—and the laborers begin their successful rebellion by stoning their taskmaster, Adoniram, to death (1 Kings 12:18)” (83). Moving forward to the next comparison White informs, “Freeman makes use of similar, biblically coded language in her descriptions of Adoniram, from whom Sarah Penn must win her long- awaited deliverance: although Sarah herself consistently refers to Adoniram as ‘Father,’ the narrator refers to him eleven times as ‘the old man.’ Readers of the Bible would recognize the biblical overtones of this appellation; the New Testament repeatedly enjoins Christians to overthrow the domination of ‘the old man.’ For example, Eph. 4:20-25 encourages people to ‘put off’ the old man, the sinful nature, and to make way for the new man, the new way of life in Jesus.” (83).
This is emphasized throughout Whites article and is shown how important the biblically coded language really is. With this being said you can interpret this story one way as a biblical differentiation. “The Revolt of mother” can also be considered as a story to represent early feminism. “The Artistry of Mary E. Wilkins Freemans “The Revolt” written by Joseph R. McElrath Jr., shows how relevant it is with American feminism. McElrath states, “The mother in revolt is one of those tough-minded, self-aware, and determined females that began to appear at the close of the nineteenth century when the so-called “New Women” was assuming clear definition” (255). Now what is the “New Women”? It emerged in the nineteenth century and basically described the women who were going against what society thought their role was and this is what McElrath compares Sarah Penn to. McElrath explains how Adoniram’s reaction shows a change in time.
How there is no anger or conflict. “He totally capitulates, promising to finish the new barn as a house. There is no resentment. Instead there is the first show of his love for Mother in the whole tale (260). McElrath also shows a different aspect of the ending and that is that Freeman withheld the fact that Adoniram was sensitive and loving nature (260). “Her mastery is especially made manifest when we think back over the story and note how she developed the scenes to obscure positive personality traits in Adoniram which were actually there all the time.” (261). This article points out how Mothers revolt is an early sign of feminism because during that decade women would not step out of line and do something that was not acceptable in societies eyes. Mother did this in particular when she did whatever she pleased. This shows that “The Revolt of Mother” can also be a story on a feminism perspective.
This also concludes that “The Revolt of Mother” is beyond what we think and has multiple meaning to the story. It is much deeper than a woman going out of her husband’s wishes and having a happy ending. Another article I want to briefly go over to show there are many different interpretations of this story. This article is “The Revolt of Mother”: America as Family vs. America, inc by Terrell Tibbets. Tibbetts argues about the gender roles being played in Wilkins story. He describes the symbolic meanings between the house and the barn as well as their families’ business life versus personal life. He states that Sarah Penn is capable of valuing family love as a social model because of her separation from the commercial world. Since majority of women worked from home cooking, cleaning and taking care of the family, this separated them from corporate America. Even though her work was hard work at home it was considered as a norm for women. What Tibbitt’s is saying is that by her separation from that she has gained the value of family love since that is her “job”. She appreciates her family.
This interprets Freeman’s story as a story about a stay at home mom who would do anything for her family. Lastly, Martha J. Cutter’s Frontier of Language: Engendering Discourse in “The Revolt of Mother” shows the engendering discourse as you see in the title. Cutter’s article goes over mother’s lack of voice in her family. Since she loved her family so much, she spoke up for what they needed and that was a new home. This is how everything correlates together. This article shows a mother’s perspective and how her work makes her a more lovable person. It also makes this “The Revolt of Mother” have an underlining meaning which is like stated before “a mothers love”. “The Revolt of Mother” can be taken in many different perspectives. It can be a general realistic fiction story, a biblical connection, a story on early feminism, a stay at home mom who values her family to cater to them and a mother’s love that made her revolt for her family’s sake. There is more meaning to this story than one. You can interpret it in at least five different ways, which is very rare. Ultimately the story is beyond what anyone thinks.