The Feminine Mystique


Betty Friedan

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– A play on the Freudian concept of “the devouring mother,” “the devouring wife” is a housewife who seeks to use her husband’s life and accomplishments to supplant her own lack of professional accomplishments. The housewife who does not live vicariously through her husband’s career actively pursues a “home career,” resulting in aggressive and domineering behavior around the household that mirrors that of “the devouring mother.”

The Devouring Wife Quotes in The Feminine Mystique

The The Feminine Mystique quotes below are all either spoken by The Devouring Wife or refer to The Devouring Wife. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Domesticity and Femininity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton edition of The Feminine Mystique published in 1963.
Chapter 11 Quotes

According to Kinsey, the majority of American middle-class males’ sexual outlets are not in relations with their wives after the fifteenth year of marriage; at fifty-five, one out of two American men is engaging in extramarital sex. His male sex-seeking—the office romance, the casual or intense affair, even the depersonalized sex-for-sex’s sake…is, as often as not, motivated by the need to escape from the devouring wife. Sometimes the man seeks the human relationship that got lost when he became an appendage to his wife’s aggressive “home career.” Sometimes his aversion to his wife finally makes him seek in sex an object totally divorced from any human relationship. Sometimes, in phantasy more often than in fact, he seeks a girl-child, a Lolita, as sexual object—to escape that grownup woman who is devoting all her aggressive energies, as well as her sexual energies, to living through him.

Related Characters: Betty Friedan (speaker), Alfred Kinsey
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Devouring Wife Term Timeline in The Feminine Mystique

The timeline below shows where the term The Devouring Wife appears in The Feminine Mystique. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11: The Sex-Seekers
Domesticity and Femininity Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Sex and Marriage Theme Icon
...marriage. They had affairs instead—office romances, casual or intense affairs—in an attempt to escape from the devouring wife . Some chose to have affairs with Lolita types, either in fantasy or in fact,... (full context)