Passion was a thing no woman possessed, much less talked about. It simply did not exist, except in men, and then was something to be ashamed of, like a violent temper, or a weak stomach.
from page 69 of So Big by Edna Ferber (1924)
The Song of the Lark was published in 1915, 9 years before So Big, but they both address this societal change from angle that would be easy to trivialize, (or to seemingly miss or ignore altogether, as in Millhauser's more recent Pulitzer, Martin Dressler,) looking at it from this late date. The Song of the Larks is about art, about passion. Cather does a wonderful job at fleshing out such personal experiences, and yet reading it twice wasn't enough for me to receive the full impact of her message. It took this cross-referencing to really be brought to light.
Harsanyi rumpled his hair irritably and shrugged his shoulders. “Her secret? It is every artist’s secret” --he waved his hand-- “passion. That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe. Like heroism, it is inimitable in cheap materials.”
from page 429 of Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (1915)
Of course, I knew that the Victorian era had a very confining effect on women--in America as well as Britain--but getting a clear picture of the transition from that to something more modern can be difficult. Anyhow, that was my brain-expanding moment for the week. Thoughts?