Political economy and women's work in Jean Ingelow's "Mopsa the fairy" a retrospective inquest
This essay examines Jean Ingelow's Mopsa the Fairy in the context of Victorian attitudes regarding political economy, specifically the mid nineteenth-century fear that laissez-faire economics promoted greed and immorality, and the related belief that women could serve as checks to this immorality if they remained outside the economic order. While many women writers decried prevailing Victorian ideology and demanded increased opportunities for women, Ingelow chose to challenge popular thinking from within the confines of the domestic sphere. Though Mopsa the Fairy appears to consist of a series of unrelated episodes, each episode has in common a focus on some type of economic exchange. Jack, the novel's hero, tries to apply his typical English attitude about economic value in each land he visits, but again and again, he is forced to re-examine his beliefs in the face of Fairyland's emphasis on the economic value of women's work. Ultimately, Jack learns that the only way to combat the immorality associated with the economic system is to place equal value on men's and women's work.