Women on the Market

Edith Wharton’s Mrs. Brympton: A Commodity or a Revolutionary? College

In Luce Irigaray’s “Women on the Market,” she argues that, in patriarchal societies, women are essentially reduced from human beings to commodities whose exchange is controlled by men. According to Irigaray, this exploitation of women is so ingrained in our culture that it is in fact what “establishes the operations of [patriarchal] society;” in other words, the current social order could not exist without it (Irigaray 807). Mrs. Brympton, one of the main characters in Edith Wharton’s ghost story “The Lady Maid’s Bell,” simultaneously reinforces this argument while also in some ways challenging it.

Mrs. Brympton’s name in itself signifies that she is somewhat of a commodity. The reader is never made aware of Mrs. Brympton’s first name, nor her maiden name, thus she is known only by her husband’s last name. This not-so-subtly suggests that she is, indeed, the property of Mr. Brympton. Additionally, Mrs. Railton, Mrs. Blinder, Mrs. Ansey are each only referred to in the same manner, thus it can be assumed that they, too, are the property of their husbands. Alice, Agnes, and Emma, the only female characters fortunate enough to be endowed with names of their own, are young and yet to be married (or dead, in the case of Emma), but...

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