Then Old Moneybags savagely rings the bell. Enters the butler, obsequious and solicitous. “The coffee is bad, the toast is vile, everything is wrong. You are a deleted deleted deleted deleted rascal.” Exit the butler, outwardly humble, inwardly a raging flood of anger, and he meets the maid, who archly invites his attentions. She gets them, only they are in the form of an angry shove and an oath. White with indignation, she stamps her foot and runs into the kitchen, bursting into tears. The cook, solicitous, receives a slap in the face, and as the maid bounces out, the cook, seeking a victim, grabs away the gingerbread from the butcher’s boy. And that still hungry juvenile slams the door as he leaves and kicks the slumbering cat off the back doorstep.
Unfortunately the film did not show what the outraged cat did. Possibly it started a devastation that reached back into Moneybags’ career; at any rate the unusual little picture (which later went on to the usual happy ending) showed how emotion spreads through the world, just as disease does. The infection that starts in the hovel finally strikes down the rich man’s child, enthroned in the palace. The mood engendered by the humiliation of poverty or cruelty or any injustice finally shakes a king off his throne.
So when we trace the deenergizing emotions of the housewife, we are tracing factors that affect her husband, his work, and Society at large; we trace the things that mold her children, and thus we follow her mood, her emotion, into the future, into history.
TYPES OF HOUSEWIFE PREDISPOSED TO NERVOUSNESS
There are three main factors in the production of the nervousness of the housewife, and they weave and interweave in a very complex way to produce a variety of results. All the things of life, no matter how simple in appearance, are a complex combination of action and reaction. Our housewife’s symptoms are no exception, whether they are mainly pains, aches, and fatigue, or the deeply motivated doubt or feeling of unreality.
The nature of the housewife, the conditions of her life, and her relations to her husband are these three factors. All enter into each case, though in some only one may be emphasized as of importance. There are cases where the nature of the woman is mainly the essential cause, others where it is the conditions of her life, and still others where the husband stands out as the source of her symptoms.
We are now to consider the nature of the housewife as our first factor. We may preamble this by saying that a woman essentially normal in one relationship in life may be abnormal in some other, may be the traditional square peg in the round hole. Moreover, we are to insist on the essential and increasing individuality of women, which is to a large extent a recent phenomenon. The cynical commonplace is “All women are alike”—and then follows the specific accusation—“in fickleness”, “in extravagance”, “in unreasonableness”, in this trick or that. The chief effort of conservatism is to make them alike, to fit each one for the same life by the same training in habits, knowledge, abilities, and ideals.