Essay on Rubber Stamp: Legacy and Individuality in "So Big"

1323 Words 6 Pages
By the 1920s, the concept of an autonomous working woman was at the vanguard of both literature and social thought. The tenets of New Womanhood hold that this new breed was concerned with "self-development as contrasted to self-sacrifice or submergence in the family" (Batker 84). Naturally, this unconventional shift in gender roles became the focus of female writers like Edna Ferber. Within her novel, So Big, Ferber eloquently places Selina DeJong at the intersection of an innovative culture and traditional roles, as her youthful desire to embrace variety does not prove to be compatible with her entrapment in the banality of agrarian life. Based on biographical evidence regarding the discussion topics of Ferber’s tight–knit circle of …show more content…
Ferber’s focus on the courage and work ethic of New Womanhood, concurrently addressed alongside the concept of legacy, indicates that her intent was to develop a thesis combining the two. So Big utilizes Dirk’s status as a “rubber stamp” to contrast emeralds and wheat as well as Selina’s painting. Placing Dirk opposite these symbols and designations of success highlights the significance of creating something unique and enduring as well as facing adversity undaunted in order to secure such a legacy. So Big reiterates that success by measure of wealth is far inferior to that which comes from leaving a lasting impact. Ferber’s commentary on the nature of success is first revealed early in the novel through a casual conversation between Selina and her father. Simeon Peake tells his daughter that “there are only two kinds of people in the world that really count. One kind’s wheat and the other kind’s emeralds” (Ferber 7). Selina quickly designates August Hempel as wheat and Fanny Davenport as emerald. August Hempel, once a Clark Street butcher, pulled himself up by his bootstraps amassing a large fortune in the development of a widely successful meat packing industry. In contrast, Fanny Davenport, a stage actress, was blessed with the ability to produce exceptional forms of artistic entertainment. While “wheat” work to produce innovative success, “emeralds” are defined by their ability to both appreciate and create

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