Domostroi Chapters 19-34

The Domostroi focused heavily on religion and obedience and how it is relevant in all aspects of life regardless of social class. Everything in a true Russian Christian’s life must be blessed or prayed on so that God will bless their work. This how-to also instructed men on how to look for a good wife and what made a good wife. A good wife must have all the qualities of a hard worker, a good mother, and is one who puts her family before herself. However the key is that a good woman must be devout and loyal. The next chapter discussed the hierarchal system of the household. The man of the house teaches all, and the power trickles down from the wife to children then to servants. There were heavy religious overtones that described obedience as being extremely important in a servant or a slave in the context that they must be religious and God-fearing, but masters should not abuse their power or position. The Domostroi also instructs good Christians on how to hire people, the requirements for a good servant being a God fearing individual as well as being handy in their respected craft, never have sinned, prone to good deeds. Overall one should be a good Christian; slave should use master’s goods. Another requirement is for servants to save their better clothes for holy days and when public, never when doing work, clean when done.

The Domostroi is quick to claim that God doesn’t discriminate based on class. In order to protect oneself from illnesses, one must stay away from sorcerers, Jews and pagan rituals. If one is ill, the only cure is to pray away the sick, essentially be a good Christian and God will heal all illnesses, God sends diseases to punish sinners. If one does not obey the commandments one will go to hell. It reverts back to the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Another way to live as a good Christian is to not live outside one’s means and to buy and use what one can afford to. If one lives beyond their worth they will be scorned and ridiculed. If one lives outside their means, no one will help them because it is considered a major sin because it does not please god to live outside one’s means. This is especially shown if one has slaves but cannot afford them. The fear is that the slaves will not be obedient and as a result they will rob, steal, drink, if owned by foolish people.

Role of women was greatly discussed. The overall theme was that men must teach women, but be gentle and civil and not cruel, wives should always be obedient and devout. A good housewife is intelligent, frugal, gentle, generous and devout. A way to keep frugal is to save scraps from cloth used to make clothes to save to use for later. It is important to create a good workspace for each distinct craft, so as to prevent clutter to keep a good and clean household. Another way to keep a good household is to not gossip or entertain gossip. It is also the mistress’ duty to oversee servants’ work, to reward servants for good work, and if the servants do not do their work well, to punish them. Above all, a wife must be loyal and obedient, knowledgeable and social, ask their husband’s advice on everything, obey husband regardless of where she is, do not drink, and behave properly.

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