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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Role of Women in Literature and in Society

Women, Marriage and Dissatisfaction Gender roles are some of the stronger defining factor of historical events as well as its representation in literature. The role of women in society during the early days was very limited. Women were either daughters or wives but rarely having a title of her own without the reference to the role of the men, as fathers or husbands. Even in histories there were very few women involved: either there were indeed few contributions or they were simply unrecognized and/or unwritten. Women had little control of their own lives because of the authority imposed upon them by either the father or the husband. Women in history who tried to be independent of the male figures were ultimately defeated and demonized such as in the case of Joan of Arc and Margaret of Anjou who "lead men in battle, but Joan is exposed as a whore and burned at the stake, while Margaret becomes first the "tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide" who commits the most memorable atrocities in a play remembered primarily for its bloodshed and horror." (Kurtz)

When it comes to marriage, women are often disappointed with what their husband are doing. Strong stereotyping in the roles of women is one of the strongest factors causing women to be an unhappy the wife. She "must" be a good wife and her husband does not necessarily need to be a good husband. A "good wife means the woman who puts priority on caring for children and supporting the husband's career"("Stereotypes of Marriage Roles" A03). In fact this situation has not changed so much but it was very well-defined in the earlier days. In the recent years, researches have been conducted to discover the reasons for the dissatisfaction of women in marriages, being the wife of the household. Women may seem to live naturally as wives to their respective husbands but deep inside their thoughts and feelings, they have clamors. Some of the reasons for dissatisfaction and unhappiness of many wives are their feelings of being neglected and their husband's irritations on them being too self-absorbed.

According to the Study Defines Major Sources Of Conflict Between Sexes by Daniel Goleman published in the New York Times on June 13, 1989 there were also factors such as men's condescension that women complain about, not to mention the unfaithfulness and abuse by the husband in some married relationships. Further dissatisfaction are related to sexual aggressiveness of their husbands, emotional constriction, insulting remarks as to their (wives') appearance and open admiration towards other women. . With the mentioned factors, women feel to be trapped in unhappy marriages. With this feeling mixed with the general "forms of inequality and discrimination, variously seen to be independent of or related to the patriarchal oppression of women" (Thurner 122) in the past (and is still existing up to the present), life is, and was not easy for women.

One of the literary works relating to some reasons why women were dissatisfied is that of Virginia Woolf, an English essayist and novelist who is regarded as one of the foremost figure in the modernist literature, in her work A Room of One's Own. Al though in this literary piece by Woolf, it was not stated verbatim but the point she was trying to convey is the freedom of women that is strongly restricted in and by a patriarchal society. It was emphasized in this that if a woman is to be a writer (or to be someone with ambition), she must have a "room of her own". This phrase can be understood literally and/or figuratively. Indeed if one is to be a writer or educated for that matter (which also applies to men) she has to have a room to concentrate upon her ideas and to develop her work. However, it can be viewed that what Woolf really wanted to tell is, for her or other women to be free- free from the controls of the fathers and free from the controls of their husbands: a space or a room of their own, a decision of their own and a way to direct their own lives. Following is the illustration of Woolf's work in 1929 as printed from the book of Wallach entitled Gender and the Politics of History. Another literary evidence of women discontentment, both in a married life and as a person during the past centuries is that of Charlotte Bront, entitled “Shirley”. In one of the chapters of the book, there was written what a husband thought of the relationship that a married couple has. Following is taken from page 53 of the book, which was published in 1849:
She accepted him at the first offer, and they were married. Nature never intended Mr. Helstone to make a very good husband, especially to a quiet wife. He thought, so long as a woman was silent, nothing ailed her, and she wanted nothing. If she did not complain of solitude, solitude, however continued, could not be irksome to her. If she did not talk and put herself forward, express a partiality for this, an aversion to that, she had no partialities or aversions, and it was useless to consult her tastes. He made no pretence of comprehending women, or comparing them with men: they were a different, probably a very inferior order of existence; a wife could not be her husband's companion, much less his confidant, much less his stay. His wife, after a year or two, was of no great importance to him in any shape; and when she one day, as he thought, suddenly -for he had scarcely noticed her decline -- but as others thought, gradually, took her leave of him and of life, and there was only a still beautiful-featured mould of clay left, cold and white, on the conjugal couch, he felt his bereavement -- who shall say how little? Yet, perhaps, more than he seemed to feel it, for he was not a man from whom grief easily wrung tears.
It is not necessary that a woman be hurt physically or be abused to feel used by the man. In a common husband-wife relationship, the woman in the relationship is bound with a lot of responsibilities. The above excerpt from a literary piece proves that women were or are of no equal to men who view themselves superior. Even the society itself has this belief and this cannot be blamed to men alone. Wives are neglected and they do not deserve consultation when it comes to decision making process. They are around men to serve! Men are viewed as the pillar of the family and he must be the one to have the "say" on what should or should not happen. Women have a very wide array of responsibilities at home but never to have a decision of her own. Even with the household chores taken away, she still has a lot to do, especially in satisfying the husband. With the caring nature of women, it is natural for a her to do all for the family. But is it the nature? Society has shaped the mind of all that a wife, or a woman for that matter, must do this and must not do that. The gender-bias society! It is not actually correct to say that the woman in the relationship is the weaker one among the two. It is not the husband alone the made her feel all the desperation that she has. The standards that are asked by the society, these so called rules, known as ethics and morality which force many to follow is one of the limiting factors that serves a lot of limits to what the woman can do. It is all right for the husband to go at work without making his bed but it is wrong for a wife not to wash the dishes before bed time. Whose wife can be happy of this? How a wife can be ultimately happy with a husband sitting in the table and relaxing as he reads the paper while the wife sweats in scrubbing the floor and cleaning the house? Wives have their own sets of wifely obligations but men do not have this kind of rules. Even in simple things, the wife is bound to make her husband happy, not the other way around.

As the short story of Stephen Crane published in 1898 entitled, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky, so short a story like this, there still must be some evidence of the truth that the woman is bound to satisfy the man, whether she is happy to do it or not. The following is taken from the short story mentioned:
"We are due in Yellow Sky at 3:42," he said, looking tenderly into her eyes. "Oh, are we?" she said, as if she had not been aware of it. To evince surprise at her husband's statement was part of her wifely amiability. She took from a pocket a little silver watch, and as she held it before her and stared at it with a frown of attention, the new husband's face shone. ”
Is it really necessary to "evince" or to fake something just to be amiable or agreeable to her husband? In this part of the story she was also presenting him a gift, which, as mentioned is the silver watch to make him even happier. She deserves the same happiness.

Works Cited
Charlotte. Shirley: A Tale. Vol. 3. London: Smith, Elder, 1849Goleman, Daniel. Study Defines Major Sources Of Conflict Between Sexes. The New York Times, 1989. 9 May 2008. < res=" 950DE5DC173FF930A25755C0" ampsec="&ampspon="&amppagewanted="all&gt." a="o&ampd="">.

Issue to discuss:
This Research Paper is has to prove the fact that women have always been the less dominant person in the Man - Woman marriage. The paper needs to show how women often get trapped in unhappy marriages, not necessarily violent or unloving marriages, just marriages where the woman is less in love than the man. You can use some historical references, but the paper needs to include 3 sources from English Literature (short stories, novels) that show this kind of relationship. Please dont use too many complex words, just prove the point effectively.

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