Book Chapter or Section
This book chapter compares the depictions of Cuban women in Louisa May Alcott's first adult novel Moods (1864) and Elizabeth Stoddard's short story "Eros and Anteros" (1862). Both writers configure a love triangle between an Anglo man and two women, one Anglo and one Cuban. In both texts, the Cuban woman is rejected as an unsuitable choice for an Anglo man. Alcott’s and Stoddard’s decision to re-value the Anglo woman as the more appropriate choice can be read as a rejection of the popular nineteenth-century political doctrine of manifest destiny and, at least with Alcott, of the United States’s dependence on slavery. Using travel narratives from Americans in Cuba in the 1850s as well as historical context of the antebellum period, I argue that Cuban women are presented as more overtly sexual and dangerous than Anglo women, and because of these very characteristics, are expelled from Alcott’s novel and Stoddard’s story. Both Alcott and Stoddard challenge notions of conquest abroad by doing so in a domestic context more familiar to their readers. The nineteenth-century belief in the “separate spheres” of men and women is challenged by the re-inscription of women into a battle for heart and hearth. Relationships between the so-called “American” couples falter, and both Moods and “Eros and Anteros” end with failure of domestic relationships, hinting that Alcott and Stoddard are as critical of political domination as they are of domestic subjugation.
Bannett, Nina. “Cuban Femininity and National Unity in Louisa May Alcott’s Moods and Elizabeth Stoddard’s ‘Eros and Anteros.’ ” Women in Anglophone Literary Culture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Perspectives. Ed. Robin Hammerman. Cambridge Scholars Press. 2007. 136-162.