While the heroes of American literature are out hunting bears, or fighting wars, the heroines are back home. These female protagonists are trapped within a social context, and so their stories tell us about life as it was actually lived. Some heroines choose to conform, others question and confront those in power. This book explores American literary heroines from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Gail Godwin. Exploring two types of heroine, the book produces a picture of an American culture that embraces the mindless child and scorns the questioning woman; one in which economic values form—and deform—social identity.