The Californian’s Tale

by

Mark Twain

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Henry’s Cottage Symbol Analysis

Henry’s Cottage Symbol Icon

The decorated cottage where Henry lives is a symbol of feminine nurturement and beauty in an otherwise desolate and depressing male-dominated environment. Manifest Destiny promised vast riches for those individuals willing to carve their own destinies out of the wilds of the American west, but Twain suggests that such an overemphasis on the “masculine” spheres of labor and wealth acquisition neglects the important role that women play in creating domestic spaces for families and tenderness to flourish. When the narrator first sees Henry’s cottage, he immediately notices that it appears “petted and cared for and looked after,” a striking contrast to the “hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation” of miners’ cabins. Inside the cottage are the hallmarks of a female presence that the outside environment lacks, including the beautiful decorations and soft furnishings that transform the cottage from a mere shelter into a nurturing home. Despite Henry’s delusions about his wife’s disappearance, the cottage provides the only comfort remaining in his life. The cottage is a symbol of the female space and presence that Manifest Destiny's boom and bust capitalism has stripped away, to the detriment of the men who remain on the Stanislaus. Twain therefore suggests that a blending of masculine and feminine influence is essential to human well-being.

Henry’s Cottage Quotes in The Californian’s Tale

The The Californian’s Tale quotes below all refer to the symbol of Henry’s Cottage. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of The Californian’s Tale published in 2005.
The Californian’s Tale Quotes

In the country neighborhood thereabouts, along the dusty roads, one found at intervals the prettiest little cottage homes, snug and cozy, and so cobwebbed with vines snowed thick with roses that the doors and windows were wholly hidden from sight.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation, but here was a nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

“I've seen her fix all these things so much that I can do them all just her way, though I don't know the law of any of them. But she knows the law. She knows the why and the how both; but I don't know the why; I only know the how.”

Related Characters: Henry (speaker), The Narrator, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

I was feeling a deep, strong longing to see her—a longing so supplicating, so insistent, that it made me afraid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

[A] loving, sedate, and altogether charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

Charley fetched out one hearty speech after another, and did his best to drive away his friend's bodings and apprehensions.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party. I reached for one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled, under his breath: "Drop that! Take the other." Which I did. Henry was served last.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when that time of the year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before she's due, to encourage him up.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:
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Henry’s Cottage Symbol Timeline in The Californian’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the symbol Henry’s Cottage appears in The Californian’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Californian’s Tale
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...Finally, however, the Narrator comes across a lone man standing at the gates of his cottage home. The man is in his mid-forties, and his cottage appears “lived in and petted... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
When the Narrator enters the cottage, he becomes overwhelmed with delight at its lovingly decorated interior. In contrast to the “hard,... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...into a bedroom to wash his hands at a sink. Like the rest of the cottage, the bedroom is ornately decorated. “All her work,” Henry states, as the Narrator gazes at... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...his wife, telling him she would be disappointed because she loves having visitors to the cottage. He shows the Narrator her picture once again, and her image convinces the Narrator to... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
On Thursday evening, another grizzled old miner named Tom arrives at Henry’s cottage and asks about the status of Henry’s wife. Henry pulls out a letter she wrote... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...assures Henry that his wife is merely delayed. The men then proceed to decorate Henry’s cottage for the party. (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Soon Tom and Joe show up and help the other men decorate the cottage with flowers before they begin playing boisterous music. Henry stands at his door looking at... (full context)