Penned at the height of the Romantic Era (1859), Frances Ellen Watkins’s, “Two Offers”, is a short story based on domestication, morale, and Christian values. During a time when men ruled in both society and in the home, how interesting for a woman to be presented with two life-altering offers. This story explores what the unfamiliar territory ‘choice’ was for women then and depicts the very motives that lay at the helm of such a decision. This story finds cousins, Laura Lagrange and Janette Alston, weighing in on two apparent offers of marriage. Their commentary on these offers was more than mere opinions; it would become the bed in which each woman would eventually have to lie in, indefinitely. These perspectives were a page out of a century when many women felt domestication was more important than self-discovery.
“Talk as you will of woman’s deep capacity for loving, of the strength of her affectional nature. I do not deny it; but will the mere possession of any human love, fully satisfy all the demands of her whole being?”
Both Laura and Janette make decisions which ultimately seals their own fates, respectively. The bigger discussion is whether or not each of the decisions made were in each woman’s best interest? Or, did they make the decision based upon what was acceptable in society at the time. It could also be asked if the basis for each decision were relative to fear of the unknown? (Five more discussion questions are included with this story) As both love and death are romanticized in sultry lyrical lamentation, the question, “Will any human love fully satisfy all the demands of her whole being?” painfully unfolds in a series of unfortunate events and sobering revelations. Subsequently, unwavering faithfulness to the ideal of being a traditional woman poses its own consequences, though they differ from those women who dared to charter the more nonconventional paths toward modernism. Laura and Janette seem to be firm in their resolution on each path they would sojourn; however, neither woman was adequately prepared to comprehend the anguish that laid on the other side of each decision.