Saturday, February 17, 2007

Adam Bede

‘It’s the silliest lie a sensible man like you ever believed, to say a woman makes a house comfortable. It’s a story got up, because the women are there, and something must be found for ‘em to do. I tell you there isn’t a thing under the sun that needs to be done at all, but what a man can do better than a woman, unless it’s bearing children, and they do that in a poor make-shift way: it had better ha’ been left to the men. I tell you, a woman ‘ull bake you a pie every week of her life, and never come to see that the hotter th’oven, the shorter the time. I tell you, a woman ‘ull make your porridge every day for twenty years, and never think of measuring the proportion between the meal and the milk – a little more or less, she’ll think, doesn’t signify. The porridge will be awk’ard now and then: if it’s wrong, it’s summat in the meal, or it’s summat in the milk, or it’s summat in the water.
‘Look at me! I make my own bread, and there’s no difference between one batch and another from year’s end to year’s end: but if I’d got any other woman beside Vixen [the dog] in the house, I must pray to the Lord every baking to give me patience if the bread turned out heavy. And as for cleanliness, my house is cleaner than any house on the Common, though the half of ‘em swarm with women. Will Baker’s lad comes to help me in a morning and we get as much cleaning done in one hour without any fuss, as a woman ‘ud get done in three, and all the while be sending buckets of water after your ankles, and let the fender and the fire irons stand in the middle of the floor half the day, for you to break you shins against them.
‘Don’t tell me about God having made such creatures to be companions for us! I don’t say but He might make Eve to be a companion to Adam in paradise – there was no cooking to be spoilt there, and no other woman to cackle with and make mischief, though you see what mischief she did as soon as she’d an opportunity. But it’s an impious, unscriptural opinion to say a woman’s a blessing to a man now; you might as well say adders and wasps, and foxes and wild beasts, are a blessing, when they’re only the evils that belong to this state o’ probation, which it’s lawful for a man to keep as clear of as he can in this life, hoping to get quit of ‘em in another.’
Bartle Massey in Adam Bede by George Eliot, chapter 21. An interesting viewpoint from a known feminist...
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