There has always been an inequity among man and women. I have hear it said many times that men were built for strength and women were built for their looks. Men were the ones that were cable and smart enough to work and provide for their families. While women were supposed to stay home clean, cook and raise babies. In “Psyche’s Art”, Alcott captures the idea that society views women as the gender that can dream of more than their place in society, but should be happy with the role society has given them and that role is to stay home, keep house and raise children.
Alcott opens her story by explaining the epidemic of art. At the beginning of the story she paints a plain picture of how women that pursued this fever were perceived. Art was something that men created and mastered not women. Alcott writes” It was found impossible to keep them safe at home, and as the fever grew, these harmless maniacs invaded the sacred retreats where artists of the other sex did congregate … (Alcott, 2171). This quote clearly states that women’s place is at home. It then continues to say that women have entered an area that is clearly for men. However men do not feel threatened by their abilities because they are “harmless maniacs” (Alcott, 2171).
The main character truly wants to create great art. She finds herself admiring a piece of work and asks the artist for advice. He tells her to “Work and wait, and meantime feed heart, soul, and imagination with the best food one can get” (Alcott, 2175). Upon this advice she destroys her work that in her eyes is not good enough and goes home to work. Alcott again reinforces society’s perception that women should be at home. Not once does Psyche believe her work is measurable to the art work of the man she just saw.
Even at home the main character is constantly reminded of her place even though she clearly still wishes to create are. A perfect example of this is when she is bandaging her brother and ask him a question about her father’s business. The brother replies “No use to try and explain it all: girls can’t understand business; so you just tie me up, and don’t bother” (Alcott, 2177). Sadly time passes and she endures the loss of her sister. She then begins to accept her place in society “House-keeping ceased to be hateful, and peace reigned in parlor and kitchen,” (Alcott, 2179-2180).
Eventually, she does make a beautiful bust of her departed sister which she is very proud of. However, the author indicates that it is was great because she did it for her sister. There is no mention that it had anything to do with skill. It is also a product of her finally finding happiness in the things she was supposed to be doing according to society’s norms. The fact that she created this beautiful piece of art was Alcott’s way of showing that she finally achieved the advice that was given to her earlier. For Psyche that was being at home and taking care of her family. Her male caller even sees a change in her and attributes it to her finding her place.
Alcott finally address both views at the end of her story. She states that some may choose to believe the happily ever after of man marries women. She then goes on to say others may see the man in the story go on to win fame and the female still stays at home although she grows in beauty because she is happy to be there and perform her duties. What the reader does not see is the possibility that the female character could leave the home and become rich and famous. So as the story ends there is still gender inequality.
- Alcott, Louisa May. “Psyche’s Art.” The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: The Traditions in English. Eds. Jack Zipes et al. Norton, 2005. 2170-2184. Print./li>