Revolt of Mother, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Specifically, it will explain the concept of ideology and discuss how its "magic" is operating. "The Revolt of Mother" is an amusing story of a woman who knows what she wants, has done without it for forty years, and is not about to do without it any longer. She is a strong character, who stands up to her husband and will no longer allow him to dominate the family. She uses her tough ideology to create the situation she wants, and illustrates not only the need for understanding and communication in a relationship, but also the need to stand up for yourself sometimes, no matter the cost.
The Revolt of Mother
The Revolt of Mother" is the story of determination and unwavering goals. Sarah Penn is a woman who has always put herself last in her family. She and her children sacrifice so that "Father" can raise his cows and put food on the table. It seems the family is poor, but they are not, her husband is simply cheap, and will spend the money for the farm, but not for his family. They have lived under duress for years, always waiting for the "new house" that is never built. She stands up for her husband to her children, and will not let them speak badly of him, even when he seems selfish and unfeeling. She always takes care of his needs and his wants, but he does not do the same for her. "However deep a resentment she might be forced to hold against her husband, she would never fail in sedulous attention to his wants" ("Mother"). Once Sarah begins her tirade against her husband, there is nothing to stop her. She has had forty years to build up resentments, and forty years to stew about not having a house, and she lets her husband know the feelings she has kept inside for so long. She rants, "You're lodgin' your dumb beasts better than you are your own flesh an' blood. I want to know if you think it's right'" ("Mother"). Of course it is not right, and Sarah and her family have put up with it long enough. Sarah solves her problem with humor and determination, by moving her family into the new barn and refusing to back down to her husband. Ultimately, this story illustrates how two people can live together for forty years, and still not know each other, as Adoniram notes at the end of the story. "Why, mother,' he said, hoarsely, 'I hadn't no idee you was so set on't as all this comes to'" ("Mother"). Adoniram did not know Sarah, and Sarah did not know that if she had shown backbone earlier, she would not have had to suffer in a dilapidated house for forty years. It is a sad testament to families who never talk, and who never learn about each other, even though they live and work together every day.
In the "Revolt of Mother," the main character, Sarah, is at a defining moment in her life. She is not as self-actualized as some other women, but she is more so than many others of her time are, because she stands up to her husband honestly, and tackles his vagueness. The author says she is a small woman, but she has learned from experience that she will not get her way unless she is strong, and so, she has an underlying strength that those around her have not seen before. "There were meek downward lines about her nose and mouth; but her eyes, fixed upon the old man, looked as if the meekness had been the result of her own will, never of the will of another" ("Mother"). Her husband does not quite know how to handle this new, difficult woman; she is suddenly steady and so determined in her purpose. "The old man glanced doggedly at his wife as he tightened the last buckles on the harness. She looked as immovable to him as one of the rocks in his pastureland, bound to the earth with generations of blackberry vines" ("Mother").
Sarah is the protagonist of the story because she is the catalyst that puts the story in motion. Her character is fully developed, while the rest of the family is shadowy and less important to the outcome of the story. As one critic noted,
At every point her management of the situation -- once the die is cast -- conforms strictly with the customs of her type. Having won her limited engagement with Father, she returns at once to her conventional role. The single departure -- if it is a departure -- from the truth of character has been deftly covered; the illusion has been preserved (Foster 92).
Freeman uses Sarah to point out the lack of communication in men and women, but she also uses her to illustrate the "magic" of an ideology developed over time. Ideology is the principles and philosophy that one lives by, and Sarah has to change her ideology to get her dreams to come true. She has to give up the meek demeanor she has kept for so long, and really show what she is made of inside. She has had plenty of time to develop her dream of a new house, and when she finally decides to do something about it, her ideology is rock solid and just as immovable. This is a new and determined woman who will stop at nothing to have what she wants, even if it means facing up to her husband and creating a scandal in her small village. She created the opportunity she needed, by having her brother send her husband a letter about a horse. "Unsolicited opportunities are the guideposts of the Lord to the new roads of life,' she repeated in effect, and she made up her mind to her course of action" ("Mother"). Thus, she believed so strongly in her ideology, she created the opportunity she needed to move into the barn, and then quickly took advantage of it before she could change her mind.
The point-of-view in the story is also used to center on Sarah, while leaving the rest of the family in the shadows. The narrator follows Sarah throughout the story, and knows her feelings, while ignoring the rest of the family. Again, Sarah is the catalyst, and without her and her nerve, the family would have stayed forever in the house that was falling down around them. Sarah's determination to live out her dream ideology placed the children in the middle, but Sarah right out front, and this is clearly illustrated in how the tale is constructed. Sarah is the main character, but she is much more, and Freeman wanted everyone who read the story to understand the steel-like strength of New England women, especially when they were resolved and determined in their ideology.
The setting of the story, New England, is only hinted at through the brother's letter from Vermont, but Yankee ingenuity is the key to Sarah getting what she wants. She solicits the letter from her brother to get Adoniram out of the house for a few days. She does not know exactly what she will do until her daughter mentions living in the barn as a joke. Then, she quickly takes advantage of the situation and packs up the family to move. This not only shows how absolutely determined she is to get out of the old house, and have a new and decent home, but it shows her ingenuity and her ability to sacrifice some things to get others. Her ideology for forty years has been a new house, and even if it is only a barn, she will have it. She sees the possibilities in what is around her, and adapts to make them work for her, and this is the true "magic" of her philosophy. She can adapt. She has adapted to a poor house for forty years, and she will adapt a big new barn into the home of her dreams. All she needs is the room and the walls around her, and she can make it anything she wants. This shows the flexibility of her nature and her ideology. She is willing to bend, and has bent for her entire marriage. Now it is time for her husband to bend, and he caves in quite easily when actually confronted with revolt and dissent. In fact, it is clear he would have caved in long ago if Sarah had only stood her ground with him, and that is sad. She did not need to live in the old house for so long, and build up so many resentments. She could have spoken her mind, and had a house long before. This is the underlying sadness of this story, that these two people could not speak frankly with each other, and so, they simply built up resentments and anger, instead of discussing…