Lawrence’s discussion of Farhham in nature

I believe Lawrence accurately argues Farhham’s view of nature.

Lawrence describes Fahham as having a sincere admiration for nature and the environment. In Lawrence’s essay, she states “Farhham acknowledges the belief that unspoiled nature’s influence on the human spirit is purifying” (89). While Farhham is a mother, wife and housekeeper, she still finds time to speak of the way in which nature awes her. She speaks of it in a tone of excitement and appreciation despite the lifestyle full of worries from the growing crops and home life that Farhham discusses in her essays…

 In Farhham’s essay, she says, “be thankful if your husband, the father of your children, desires your presence after having passed a year or two amid the wild and lawless excitement of this land. (301)” She is aware of the power nature has to captivate an individual, and accepts it as no offence to herself. She almost feminizes nature in this sentence by making it seem as if nature is another woman with which a husband can potentially get together with.

                Farhham clearly uses nature as a mode of escape from her domestic lifestyle. On page 91, Lawrence says Farhham creating an “open-house design,” which left “liberated space,” assumedly to the environment. Farhham sets a scene on page 89 where her son wakens and she is forced to come in and feed her kids. Lawrence says Fahnham is “reluctant” to “detach” herself from where she is sitting in observation.

                Lawrence’s says “her decision to wear pants…can be seen as her attempt to escape from repressive patriarchal confines into the liberated space of her own authority” (91). This similar idea comes up in Farhham’s essay when she says “…it I not more extraordinary for a woman to plough, dig and hoe with her own hands, if she have the will and strength to do so” (28). Both of these lines have a sense of feminine power found through nature. Lawrence correctly demonstrates Farhham’s thought on the equality of both genders and the idea that anything a man can do, a woman can do to the same caliber.

We see, in both essays, the small problems one may encounter at home and the way in which is keeps an individual from being out in the environment. For example, Farhham having to tend to her fields, cook dinner, etc.


Lawrence, Deborah. Writing the Trail. Ch./ Art:85-92 Pub. University of Iowa Press 2006

Farhham, Eliza W. California In-Doors and Out; On, How We Farm, Mine, and Live Generally in the Golden States. Ch./ Art: Excerpts p.  28-31, 91-94. Pub. Dix, Edwards & Co 1856



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bharta1 on October 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    The way Farnham describes nature is in an almost feminizing way. It’s slightly ambivalent. There is definitely a connection regardless, if she does have an inclination to gender nature or even not, the similarities she sees in women, particularly rugged women who can cope with wilderness coincide with what nature can stand for. They represent each other, both as providers and powerfully sublime. Nature and women can do it all.
    However, I found it slightly strange that Farnham, as Lawrence provides, was not caught by the cultivated land but by the ‘unspoiled nature’. This makes me wonder, what kind of nature she is really observing. In a Bioregionalism sense, I wonder where the borders of her land ends and wilderness begins. Which one is she witnessing? Did she spend most of her time outdoors on her ranchero, or in the wild mountain and seascapes? Doubtful because she had a family to provide and most of the narrative is involved with cultivating. If she does get sucked into the awe of nature and its purity and purifying powers on her own land, which is totally cultivated or in the process of being cultivated land, she would be relying heavily on a pastoral ecology, essentially, believing that the way nature works is in harmony with itself and is more or less self-regulating. My question is to the impermanence of her conviction to this belief. When she speaks of cows and insects she breaks down into a rage, and she demonstrates that she is culpable of doing this to ethnicities as well, particularly the Irish, so that when things don’t work out, they are agents of dissent and anti-harmony. Which makes no sense from a natural standpoint. Basically, if the crop yields are good, she is resplendent and reverential to nature, but if a crop fails or an inconvenience arises, she is angry suspicious of her natural habitation. If it goes well she’s pure, if not, she’s murky. Pretty up and down.

  2. I agree with Christy that Lawrence accurately assesses nature in Farnham’s text. Lawrence pulls examples from Farnham’s writings, like when she is detaching herself to connect with nature on page 89, to show her awe of nature, although she does not label this ‘sublime’ as those reading from an ecocritical perspective would. Though Lawrence is analyzing Farnham’s view of nature she does not give enough ecocritical analysis of “California In Doors and Out.” Lawrence simply states, “No longer can she be content to simply appreciate its beauty—now she must depend on its cultivation for her survival,” but doesn’t go into further detail regarding how Farnham felt a shift in her relationship with nature from a sublime one to a pastoral one (90). Lawrence’s analysis of Farnham is more focused on gender relations in California than on Farnham’s connection with nature.

    Also, I agree Farnham does feminize nature, as exemplified in the quote Christy chose to show Farnham personify nature as ‘the other woman’ who has the power to captivate a husband. However, I don’t feel that this quote applies specifically to Lawrence’s assessment of Farnham.

    Lawrence, Deborah. Writing the Trail. Ch./ Art:85-92 Pub. University of Iowa Press 2006

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