Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Peggy Whiman Prenshaw


This study examines how problematic representations of brides reflect anxiety about women's roles in the marriage market of the early twentieth-century United States in Grace Lumpkin's The Wedding, Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding, and Alice Childress's Wedding Band: A Love /Hate Story in Black and White. The study develops a theoretical model of stages young women negotiate in order to participate in the sexual economic process underlying the marriage exchange: initiate, self-fashioner, marriageable woman, bride, wife, and mother. In moving through these stages, the young woman increasingly loses her identity as she fashions herself into the socially-constructed persona "lady," or marriageable woman. As the young woman becomes a bride, the self-effacement required to become marriageable woman/lady and the self-sacrifice required as wife and mother are represented in the young woman's moving through a series of increasingly dehumanized representations---anticipation, anticipation disrupted, altered corporal and mental states, suspended between old and new lives, self-sacrificed on the marriage alter---until she finally becomes no longer herself, but the objectified, fetishized icon bride. The study also examines the roles of mentors, older women who assist young women through the sexual economic process and who enforce the economy's rigid code of conduct for female behavior which guarantees the groom an unsullied product at the marriage altar. At the altar, the bride literally and figuratively exchanges herself as the fashioned commodity marriageable woman/lady in return for the financial security and social respectability of marriage.