Fidelity is Susan Glaspell’s third novel. It was first published in Boston in 1915 and it is considered Glaspell’s best novel. The story exposes the limitations of life in a Midwestern town as experienced by Ruth Holland, a young woman who defies society pressure to wed when she falls in love with a married man and elopes with him to Colorado. After eleven years she returns home and has to face with the death of her father, the break-up of her family, and the contempt of her loved ones. In this especially strong novel Glaspell is able to dramatize a moral issue without presenting it as a final contest between good and evil.
Fidelity deals with one of Glaspell’s major themes, woman’s controversial relationship to society, the conflict between her desire for autonomy and individuality, and her need for inclusion in a community that denies her this longed-for independence. Ruth Holland is a passionate rebel struggling to be reborn as a feminist new woman, to free herself from the dichotomous images of her gender prescribed by a patriarchal society.
Fidelity clearly illustrates Glaspell’s deconstruction of romantic myths surrounding love and marriage. The novel is a thorough critique to a middle-class society that advocates marriage as the goal of life and shows that romantic love cannot be considered enough to fulfill anyone’s existence.
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