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Tag Archives: lessons in wifery

Lessons in Wifery from Anna Karenina

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The Unequal Marriage by Vasili PukirevLeo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina famously begins, “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy weaves together the storyline of one happy family and one unhappy family through the protagonists Constantine Levine and Anna Karenina. Through Levine (and his eventual wife Kitty) and Anna, Tolstoy shows us what love can add to—and take away from—an ordinary, human life. And through both Kitty and Anna, we see how each choice a woman makes leads to her eventual happiness or downfall. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from Kristin Lavransdatter

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Kristin Lavransdatter lives a happy life of privilege. She has a wealthy and respected father who loves her and a betrothed who is devoted to her. But when she falls deeply in love with charming, impulsive Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies them and all of fourteenth-century Norwegian society to be his. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from The Age of Innocence

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Newland Archer is proud of his beautiful, accomplished fiancée—at least until he meets the notorious and exciting Countess Ellen Olenska. After he convinces her not to divorce her husband for propriety’s sake, Newland and Ellen fall deeply in love with each other. As they contemplate an affair, they struggle to reconcile their feelings with the expectations of the deeply conservative society of New York during the Gilded Age.

The Age of Innocence is a novel about the conflict between love and duty—and what we lose when we have to choose. Her realistic portrayal of upper class life during the 1870s won author Edith Wharton the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a woman. And that same realistic portrayal teaches us valuable lessons about what it is to be a wife in any age. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from Erec and Enide

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The world’s greatest knight wins the hand of the world’s most beautiful woman. They are married in King Arthur’s castle and set out to live happily ever after. That would be the end of most modern love stories. But a wedding is only the beginning of this medieval legend.

Erec gives up knightly deeds to spend time with Enide. When Enide learns that Erec’s subjects no longer respect him as a knight, Erec demands that Enide join him on a quest.

Erec wants to prove his manliness to his wife. Enide struggles to earn back the affection she thinks she has lost. But while fighting recreant knights, lecherous counts, and terrible giants, each learns to give what the other needs and receive what the other offers. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from The Divine Comedy

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In The Divine Comedy, Beatrice gives women a model for how to encourage—and challenge—the men we love. The books tells the story of one man’s journal through hell, purgatory and heaven, with the inspiration, help, and reprimand of his true love.

Midway through life’s journey, Dante Alighieri finds himself in a dark valley from which he cannot escape. From her position in the highest heaven, Beatrice sees Dante and takes pity on him. She sends the Roman poet Virgil to guide Dante through hell and purgatory toward ultimate redemption.

Dante met Beatrice Portinari only twice in his life: once, as a nine-year-old little boy and once on the streets on Florence. But even after her marriage to someone else and death at the age of twenty-four, Dante wrote of her as a model of feminine grace and virtue. 

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Lessons in Wifery from Homer’s Odyssey

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Penelope at her loom

Ten years after the Trojan War, faithful wife Penelope waits for her long-absent husband Odysseus to return to Ithaca. Day-to-day, she must use her wits to delay 108 suitors who are eating her and her young son Telemachus out of house and home. Meanwhile, Odysseus battles men, monsters, and immortals to make his way back home.

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