The Home-Maker

by Dorothy Canfield. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company. 1924. 12mo. vi+314 pp. $2.00.
‘THE more we consider woman, the more we must acknowledge her organizing power. The management of a household, that traditional sphere of woman, is organization. It is no light matter to arrange a little community of a man, a woman, two or three children and a servant, so that all their different wants shall be satisfied with the least friction on an insufficient income; yet that feat is accomplished every day by women.’
‘Imagination, intuition, and the love of pure knowledge are manly virtues.’
These quotations from Ramsay Traquair’s Atlantic essay, ‘Women and Civilization,’are so pertinent to Dorothy Canfield’s thesis in The Home-Maker that they might serve as mottoes on her title page to point a paradox. For the brilliant organizing power of tlie woman in this novel comes near to wrecking the home-life of her family, and it is not until father injures his spine and is compelled to focus his manly virtues upon the family situation, while mother’s genius for management fulfills itself in a department store, that the Home emerges.
But we must not therefore infer that the book is a plea for establishing fathers in the home and mothers in the department store. The author is content to leave generalization to the more intuitive sex and to tell a vivid and convincing story of a particular father and mother and three individual children. Between the lines one reads the pragmatic hint that this fitting of man and woman into spheres may be to blame for more domestic misfits than society dare surmise. But it is the story as story, and not as tract, that holds the reader’s sympathetic attention. The spiritual anguish of those two solitaries, husband and wife, at grips with tragedy, is disclosed with a penetrating and purging sanity. The fine reticences that save the situation are delicately indicated: Lester never betrays himself; Eva never betrays herself; the doctor betrays neither himself nor them. The part the children play is vitally conceived, and they play it as living children.
Sanity, always the basic quality in Dorothy Canfield’s work, skirts the obvious, and there are moments when it crosses the borderline in this very readable little book; moments too when the mechanics of the story obtrude; when the tract emerges. But these moments are too few to obscure the living reality of the characters, the passionate, introspective intensity of their reaction to the situation. We may be ready to agree that, for the most part, ‘it is in the least abstract forms of literature that women shine — in descriptions of and comments on life and society’; but we must also acknowledge that creative imagination — a virtue assigned to man by Mr. Traquair — is not lacking in The HomeMaker,