Monday, April 4, 2011

Victorian girls' novels

I have been reading Susan Coolidge's Katy books, and I am struck, in the comparison with Louisa M. Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, by how a middle-class Eastern coast family has very different living standards than a poor Western family. Clover has to keep a house for herself and her brother and she doesn't seem to know how to cook and bake.
"Fairly good soups could be bought in tins, which needed only to be seasoned and heated for use on table. Oysters were easily procurable there, as everywhere in the West; good brown-bread and rolls came from the bakery"
Also, the need of "help" in both Little Women and Katy books is surprising... In Little Women there are five (5) women (from age 9 and up) living in a little house, and they have a help! In  Montgomery's Anne books she is a good help for Marilla already when 12, and all they think is that Matthew would need a boy for some of the farm work. March women had only a house!
I can understand that sometimes help is needed with laundry and perhaps when the whole house needs to be cleaned thoroughly, but not all the time. Katy's father had a cook, a maid and a handyman, and still they "needed" a housekeeper. I really don't get it.

BTW, What Katy Did Next is horrible! I remember liking it when I read it as a girl, but now I'm disturbed by all kinds of things. The "lovely" Amy who's dumb and selfish as a girl can be, spoiled rotten, and yet Lily, who is what Amy is growing up to be, is considered horrible. That Englishmen didn't know who Jane Austen was. That an Italian woman would have thrown a sick child out from her house. How everyone not American was somewhat weird, evil, primitive, ugly, dirty and so on and so forth.

No comments: