Paternalism Incorporated: Fables of American Fatherhood, 1865–1940

Paternalism IncorporatedDavid Leverenz

Cornell University Press, 2003
ISBN 08014-41676

Between the Civil War and World War I, David Leverenz maintains, the corporate transformation of American work created widespread desire for upward mobility along with widening class divisions. In his view, several significant narrative constructs, notably the daddy’s girl and the daddy’s boy, emerge at the intersection between paternalistic practices and more democratic possibilities for self-advancement. From Mark Twain’s Laura Hawkins in The Gilded Age to the protagonist of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Willa Cather’s Alexandra Bergson in O Pioneers!, Leverenz finds that the image of the daddy’s girl constrains the emerging thread of the career woman even as it articulates the lure of upward mobility for women.

In surveying the figure of the “daddy’s boy,” Leverenz examines tensions between young men’s desires for upward mobility and older men’s desires for paternal control. Paternalism Incorporated also addresses yearnings for individualism and paternalism in various critiques of the emerging corporation. Another chapter links honor and shaming to race in the philanthropic practices of Andrew Carnegie and John D. rokefeller, frames with narratives by William Dean Howells, Booker T. Washington, and Jane Addams. After showing how a daddy’s girl becomes a paternalist in Henry James’s The Golden Bowl, Leverenz considers F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night as paternalism’s elegy, contrasted with Shirley Temple film The Little Colonel.

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