15 September 2008
Realism in Freeman’s “The Revolt of ‘Mother’”
In the late 19th century, American literature experienced the Realism movement. It is not only another literary technique, but is also the beginning of the writers’ exploration for truth. Literature is no longer a form of escapades from reality, but rather, a constant reminder of what it contains. In their literary works, authors in this era made great effort to closely describe the life of the people; and among realist writers, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman is most notable as a “local colorist” of the rural New England region (Glasser). Her stories are truthful in depicting the particularities of ordinary people with their daily struggles in life. One of Freeman’s most typical stories, “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” is an outstanding example of the realism theme conveyed throughout her writing.
Originally published in the Harper’s Bazaar in 1890, “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” tells about the rebel of Sarah Penn to her husband and the society. With her daughter Nanny’s wedding coming up and her husband refusal to improve their house but building a new barn instead, Sarah’s tolerance has reached its limit as she revolts by moving the home into the new barn while Adoniram, her husband is away. This act evokes much discussion from the neighbors, and even a visit from the minister, none of which changed her will. When Adoniram gets home and sees what Sarah has done, he breaks down emotionally and agrees to make the improvements to the house that Sarah has asked for, claiming, “[he] hadn’t no idee [she] was so set on’t as all this comes to.”
“The Revolt of ‘Mother’” is a short story based mostly within the threshold of the Penn’s family and estate. The realistic elements start with the fact that the characters of the story are completely ordinary people with no special powers or talents. This is the most distinct difference of Realism from Romanticism—where protagonists are...