Kerewin's Character and the Cult of Domesticity

Mary-Kim Arnold'93 (English 34 1993)

The Cult of Domesticity is a particular construction of femininity which emphasizes almost exclusively women's alleged nurturant and maternal capacities. These are associated with moral sensibilities by which women came to be seen as more morally responsible and more chaste than men. In this construction of femininity, women's lives are structured as dependent and privatized. This is opposed to a masculinity which situates men as actors in the public sphere where they are providers for, and protectors of, women.

Against the backdrop of the Cult of Domesticity, we can view Kerewin's character as rebelling against these societally established norms. This highlights the alienation of Kerewin that is brought out in the novel - the tower, her self-proclaimed asexuality; her being cut off from her family. Taking into consideration the pressures of motherhood that are part of Maori culture, we might be able to apply this as an added insight into both the abandonment of Simon by his biological parents and into the reluctance of Kerewin to assume a maternal role towards the now-motherless child. She presents herself as a woman struggling against the world, and against making any emotional ties to her world. It is against these ingrained ideas of what she is supposed to be and how her value is assessed that Kerewin balks so strongly.

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Last Modified: 15 March, 2002