Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Charlotte Perkins Gilmans Cupid in the Kitchen Essay -- Cupid

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Cupid in the Kitchen      Ã‚  Ã‚   As a reader in the 1990's it's tempting to see Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "Cupid in the Kitchen" as revolutionary and ahead of its time. She proposes the complete professionalization of the nutritive and execretive functions of society, a radical, if not revolutionary notion. However, in the light of the fin-de-siecle birth of the modern feminist movement, Gilman is but one voice in many crying for economic and social justice for women. In effect, the rhetorical situation of 1898 demanded and created this discourse as it does all discourse (Bitzer 5). Gilman's "Cupid" is a natural and elegant response to the conditions which created it: the continuing surplus of unmarried women in Britain and America as verified by census data, and the persistent injustice of the forced domestic servitude of married women.    One need only look as far as the literature of the 1890's to see that women's issues influenced the thinking of many intellectuals. The discourse of the period is obsessed with the proper roles for women, debate about suffrage, and considerations of what to do with all the "odd women" who couldn't find husbands. As early as 1860 census data indicated that more and more women were remaining single and unmarried (Showalter viii). In an essay written for The Edinburgh Review Harriet Martineau argued that because there were not enough husbands to go around, girls should be educated and trained to be self-supporting (Showalter ix). By the end of the century the numbers of unmarried women lacking economic support reached crisis proportions. This event, as much or more than any other, precipitated the feminist movement of the late nineteenth an... ... surprise. Economics drove the rhetorical situation in which "Cupid" was produced as it drives the rhetorical situation in which we return to Gilman for enlightenment now. Similarities in the rhetorical situations of reader, subject and author create the common ground that makes Gilman seem so topical, but it is the clarity of her vision and the simple logic of her proposition that makes her work so remarkable.    Works Cited    Bitzer, Lloyd F. "The Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy & Rhetoric 1.1 (1968): 1-14. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Women and Economics: Cupid in the Kitchen." A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. ed. Lee A. Jacobus (Boston: St. Martin's, 1990) 208-19. Showalter, Elaine. introduction. The Odd Women, by George Gissing (New York: Pennguin, 1983) vii-xxvi.          *        

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