Marriage And Family In America Essays

Finally, “family” invites consideration of words such as “marriage,” “wife,” “husband,” “patriarchy,” and “property.” The man of the family acquires and controls property, while his wife ensures the orderly transmission of both estate and blood by producing legitimate heirs.Raymond Williams (1976/1983, 131–34) argued in his keyword essay on “family” that both the reality and the image of this nuclear, bourgeois family were nineteenth-century “inventions” and that the term has a richly diverse prehistory.

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Fifty years later, ignoring both past and present social history, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1965) issued a report that reduced the African American family to one single structure—the female-headed household—and classified it, in an uncanny echo of Jacobs’s language, as a “tangle of pathology” (29–45).

The word “household” returns us to Williams’s concept of .

By the early nineteenth century, work became increasingly separated from household as fathers engaged in “out-door” labor, and the domestic work of mothers became privatized.

This division of labor gave rise to the ideology of separate spheres.

From a more class-based perspective, the family has been seen as a social structure whose “happiness” (in the Beechers’ words) depends on the labor of servants; in direct contradiction to Williams’s , however, these servants are prohibited from establishing “relations of private intimacy” with their employers’ families (Beecher and Stowe 1869, 326).

The nineteenth-century invention of the bourgeois family has obscured the history of other familial formations. “Family,” here and elsewhere, often functions as a code word intended to stigmatize the deviant, those who are placed beyond the norm by virtue of their race, sexuality, class, or other social identities.As inventions, definitions of family serve ideological purposes and often contradict historical reality. In line with Williams but contrary to the Beechers, family is not a “state” but a malleable process; its connotations range from a delimited social practice involving specific persons and spaces to broader notions of feeling and experience and finally to metaphor.For instance, the term has routinely been extended to demarcate national boundaries.Another cluster includes “home” and “domestic,” as the title of the Beechers’ book suggests.The text itself pointedly distinguishes between “out-door,” where the father labors, and the “domestic home”—a physical and emotionally charged space—realized by his labor.They both follow and counter the bourgeois family’s prescribed gender roles. Although female, her grandmother is the family’s economic provider yet simultaneously upholds the cult of true womanhood.If her adherence to true womanhood is normative, her application of it to slave women is deviant.Beginning in the nineteenth century, writers often cast the nation in familial, domestic terms as an expansion of the bourgeois home that stands in opposition to the foreign (A. In all of these instances, family operates as a system of both inclusion and exclusion.Family members are kin, belong to the same lineage, share the same blood; but they reserve the right to exclude strangers not related by blood, not descended from the same ancestor, not living under the same roof, not belonging to the same class or race.“Family” derives from the Latin , either in the sense of a group of servants or a group of blood-relations and servants living together in one house” (108).By extension, “familiar” connoted feelings of friendship and intimacy born of “the experience of people living together in a household, in close relations with each other and well used to each other’s ways” (109).

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