i n t r o d u c t i o n
Like
many other women writers of her day, including Kate Chopin,
Sarah Orne Jewett, and Willa Cather, Charlotte Perkins Gilman used
her prose to facilitate social change for women and to enter into the
growing fray of sexual politics—usually by presenting her readers
with guidance and instruction through exemplary characters. In her
original preface to The Crux (1911), she states: ‘‘This story is, first, for
young women to read; second, for young men to read; after that, for
anybody who wants to.’’ Gilman wrote elsewhere that she hoped to
create a genre that would reflect ‘‘the new attitude of the full grown
woman, who faces the demands of love with the highest standards of
conscious motherhood.’’∞ In fact, she considered her body of work as
a remedy for the ‘‘ills of modernity,’’ what she characterizes in Women
and Economics (1898) as a time in which ‘‘human motherhood is
more pathological than any other, more morbid, defective, irregular,
diseased.’’≤ It should come as no surprise that The Crux is filled with
the trappings of these desires, leading some scholars to criticize her
body of work as didactic, or, as biographer Ann Lane puts it, ‘‘as
lessons.’’≥ In her autobiography, Gilman reflected on the challenge
fiction writing posed for her: ‘‘The stories . . . called for composition
1. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Man-Made World, Our Androcentric Culture (New York:
Charlton, 1911), 179.
2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898; reprint, New York: Prome-
theus Books, 1996), 181.
3. Ann Lane, ed. The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader (New York: Pantheon Books,
1980), xvi.
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