Gender in Literature
Female Desire and Jealousy in “A Tragical Ballad” Research Paper
Updated: Jul 11th, 2021
Studying ephemera allows learning about the topics that used to be important many centuries ago. “A Tragical Ballad” discusses the problems of love, male-female relationships, and other issues related to sexuality. A prominent place in this piece belongs to the depiction of female jealousy, which represents women as predators who are not willing to give up their man and lose the opportunity to have their personal life settled. There are four female characters in the story: the fair Eleanor, the Brown Girl, and Lord Thomas’s and Eleanor’s mothers. Each of these women has an important function in the development of the plot. However, the two young females play the most important roles. Being unable to forgive Lord Thomas for different reasons, none of the girls feels happy until the issue is resolved. Unfortunately, the resolution is tragic, the story ending with the death of all main characters. “A Tragical Ballad” depicts the diversity of women’s nature that can vary from sincere, gentle feelings of love to jealousy and violence which may cause death.
The main theme of the ballad is tragic and undivided love and the aftermath to which it has led. This topic is rather typical both for literature and real life since people frequently find themselves in intricate triangles where someone’s feelings do not receive the expected response. The text of the ballad upholds normative gender roles, where men and women try to find a resolution to their senses and prospects for the future.
Lord Thomas is not sure which of the two ladies he should marry: “fair” Eleanor whom he loves “dear” or the “Brown Girl” who is rich and has “houses and lands” (3, 4, 9). A traditional way of seeking advice is asking one’s parents, so Lord Thomas naturally asks for his mother’s blessing. Although this female character is secondary, the advice she gives to her son plays a crucial function in the story. Lord Thomas’s mother gives preference to the rich girl, thus neglecting the true feelings of love and tenderness existing between her son and Eleanor: “I charge you with my blessing, / Bring me the Brown Girl home” (11-12). The choice which the young man makes following his mother’s guidance leads to the disclosure of the question of sexuality in the poem.
The problem of choice is related to differences in physical appearance in the two girls. Eleanor is young and beautiful, and she wants to be with Lord Thomas with all her heart. She dresses nicely – “cloathed herself in gallant attire” – and she has such good manners that many people take her “to be some Queen” (41, 44). However, when it comes to love affairs, it becomes evident that this young lady can be rather rude and jealousy. When Lord Thomas informs her about his coming wedding, she says, “I thought to have been thy bride myself, / And thou to have been the bridegroom” (27-28). Such reaction explains Eleanor’s character and emphasizes that the girl is not ready to give away what she considers hers so easily. She is not only tender and sweet but also ready to fight for what she thinks she deserves. Upon arriving at Lord Thomas’s house and seeing his bride, Eleanor asks with contempt, “Is this your bride?” (49). This question presupposes that she is mocking Lord Thomas for his choice and is laughing at his bride.
Eleanor is angry and devastated, as any woman when rejected by the man she loves. Further explication of Eleanor’s nature is given in the line “Despise her not” (53). By saying so, the girl suggests that Lord Thomas does hate the Brown Girl. Thus, it can be assumed that Eleanor is haughty and judges her rival by appearance. It is true that Lord Thomas’s choice of his future wife is based on the financial stability of the Brown Girl and not on his feelings to her. However, hearing such an opinion from Eleanor allows making assumptions about her sexuality. It is evident that the girl wants to be treated according to her assets, the greatest one of which is her beauty.
It is possible to conclude that Eleanor is narcissistic and contemptuous of others by analyzing the words she uses to describe herself. When she compares her looks to those of the Brown Girl, she expresses her dissatisfaction with Lord Thomas’s choice, her pain of being left out, and her anger. Eleanor mentions that Lord Thomas “might’st have had as fair a woman / As ever trod upon the Ground” (51-52). Thus, when she finds herself in a situation where her feelings are hurt, Eleanor displays her true nature, which is selfish and scornful. Undoubtedly, her reactions and words are the result of the situation in which Lord Thomas put her. However, the girl’s desires are expressed in a way that is not pleasant or pitiful.
The Brown Girl is the second important female character in the ballad. This character represents a typical group of females who fail to attract men by their looks but can gain some attention with the help of their money. In some cases, such women realize that they are being used. On other occasions, they do not suspect anything and believe that men court them because they are sincerely attracted to them. In the ballad, the character of the Brown Girl belongs to the second type. She did not suspect that Lord Thomas was about to marry her because of her “houses and land,” thinking that he loved her earnestly (3). Thus, the girl is rather upset when she finds out the truth. As well as Eleanor, the Brown Girl is angry and jealous. However, her jealousy differs from Eleanor’s in that she is rather upset than envious.
The text exemplifies the two girls’ attitude toward marriage by showing what each of them is ready to do in order to become Lord Thomas’s wife. It is apparent that getting married is highly important for the Brown Girl and Eleanor alike. To show that she is worthier than her rival, each girl employs a different strategy. Eleanor implores to Lord Thomas’s feelings and reminds him of how beautiful and unique she is. On the contrary, the Brown Girl does not have a similar advantage, so her jealousy and bitter disappointment are reflected through hurting the object of her misfortune. The Brown Girl takes her “long and sharp” “pen-knife” and stabs Eleanor (58, 57). Even at this point, Eleanor does not miss the opportunity to assert her looks one last time. She explains what has happened by saying “O dost thou not see my dear heart’s blood” (67). Here, once again, she uses a rhetoric question that is mixed with irony. And once again, she points at her beauty and beseeches sympathy and pity.
When analyzing gender roles in the text, it is necessary to mention the significance of both girls’ mothers’ characters. Lord Thomas’s mother is depicted as a mercenary woman who is more interested in wealth than in her son’s happiness. Since “fair Eleanor <…> has got none” of the assets, the mother says she does not want to have her as a daughter-in-law (10). This moment demonstrates that the woman does not believe in true feelings or at least does not find them more important than financial stability. Meanwhile, Eleanor’s mother is portrayed as a wise and sympathetic woman. She says that “There’s many are our friends <…> / And many that are our foes” (33-34). By saying this, Eleanor’s mother is trying to save her daughter from being ashamed when she goes to Lord Thomas’s wedding.
Without his mother’s advice, Lord Thomas would not have caused a tragedy. However, it is crucial to mention that the disaster could have been averted if he had not been dating two girls in the first place. The ballad describes a set of normative gender roles in a situation that is quite common in relationships. Young people’s decisions are governed by their parents, and the man cannot choose between two girls. The text shows a link between sexuality and crime: the girl murders her enemy, and the young man kills her for that. Finally, he also kills himself upon understanding what has happened and what situation he has entered. This situation is less common that the unhappy love of two people, but it is not less tragic. As the author mentions in the end, “There were never three lowers sure, / That sooner did depart” (75-76). Hence, it is emphasized that the case is not typical, and three people dying because of undivided feelings and jealousy is a rare occasion. Because of that, the story becomes highly dramatic and implores to a deeper understanding of its causes.
“A Tragical Ballad” covers several sexuality-related themes, such as the body, desire, and marriage. The desire governs all main characters’ decisions and dictates their actions. Lord Thomas’s desire to own two girls at a time makes him lie to them and prevents him from making sober-minded decisions. Fair Eleanor’s wish to be treated like a queen leads to her becoming a contemptuous person who despises someone who is not as beautiful as she. The Brown Girl’s intention to gain fairness makes her kill Eleanor out of jealousy. It is evident that each character’s issues are connected with unresolved sexuality aspects or other related themes.
The analyzed ephemera offers an insight into individuals’ secret desires and hidden thoughts when they are involved in a love triangle. The story of the three young people serves as a lesson to those who consider that feelings do not have power over people. Sexuality may be both a good and a bad tool, depending on who is using it and on what side of the relationships a person is situated. “A Tragical Ballad” is indeed a tragedy not only because of deaths but also due to the cause of them. Jealousy and desire are warning signs to people in romantic relationships who can learn that these concepts are likely to cause serious negative outcomes.
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Women, Friendships, Marriage in Lynn Nottage’s “Poof!” Essay
Updated: Jul 11th, 2021
Lynn Nottage’s play “Poof!” presents a short but highly expressive depiction of the life of a married woman whose husband does not appreciate her and abuses her frequently. There are two of such female characters in the story, and attitudes toward family problems are quite similar. Maybe Loureen and Florence treat their problems a little differently depending on the fact of having children or the degree to which the husband’s attitude can be tolerated. However, the two women have mostly common views on marriage and the role of respectful relationships in it. Nottage describes these opinions in a funny way with the use of elements of fiction.
The general opinion about women and their place in the family differs in Loureen’s and Florence’s perceptions. Loureen is tired of constantly being abused by her husband, both physically and verbally. However, when she supposedly kills him by accident, she feels remorseful and scared. She even tells her friend not to wrinkle the jacket because “that’s his favorite jacket” although it is apparent that Samuel will not need it any longer (Nottage 1111). However, at the same time, Loureen feels relieved when her husband is dead. She has suffered too much and for too long, and she feels “like a ton of bricks” has been lifted from her shoulders (Nottage 1110). Meanwhile, Florence considers that there is a ‘degree’ of suffering which one can stand, and she thinks that her limit has not been reached yet. She admits that “Edgar has never done [her] the way Samuel did [Loureen], but he sure did take the better part of [her] life” (Nottage 1112).
The two women agree on the opinion about friendship, and they cherish their relations despite their husbands’ interference and the fact that they forbid their wives to communicate. The offended Florence calls Loureen “you bitch!” when she reminds her of the “pact” they made about killing their husbands together “when things got real bad” (Nottage 1111). The woman is disappointed that her friend has betrayed their arrangement, even though Loureen’s actions were unintended. Friendship seems to mean much for females in such depressing living conditions. Both Loureen and Florence suffer ill-treatment and abuse from their husbands, so they understand one another keenly. Thus, after all, Florence relieves her disappointment and agrees to visit Loureen later to spend some time with her and make her feel better. Both characters admit that the generally accepted place of a wife in marriage is “the silent spot on the couch” and “a pleasant smile” warming the heart (Nottage 1111). However, both women consider this view wrongful and unfair.
Loureen and Florence are only two of many females who suffer from continuous negative attitude and abuse. In her play, Nottage employed humor to discuss complicated and dramatic issues prevailing in family life. Despite some minor differences in views, both characters have similar opinions on the role of wives in marriage and consider that husbands should be more supportive and less cruel. Fortunately, the play’s major theme does not have the same level of actuality now as it did at the time Nottage created it. However, everyone needs to be cautious of the negative aspects of marriage and husband-wife relationships to be able to prevent them. Loyal support and mutual understanding can serve as catalysts for improving people’s relationships and lives.
Nottage, Lynn. “Poof!” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound & Sense, edited by Greg Johnson and Thomas R. Arp, 13th ed., Cengage Learning, 2017, pp. 1106-1112.
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Women’s Status in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” Essay
Updated: Jun 28th, 2021
The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in the late 19th century – a time when women did not have much freedom. The main idea presented in the literary work is the concept of women lacking their independence. The story is a critique of control in marriages and dominant attitudes towards women in the society of the 19th century.
The literary work can be considered through the analysis of the story’s plotline. In the exposition part, readers are introduced to the protagonist of the story, Louise Mallard, who has a severe heart condition, and any sudden plot ‘twist’ may cause a heart attack. In the rising action, Louise’s sister Josie tells her that Mr. Mallard died in an accident. In the climax, Mr. Mallard turns out to be alive, which means that he has been thought dead by mistake. He walks in fully alive and completely unaware of the current situation. In the resolution, Louise dies because of the sudden shock of seeing her husband alive and of the disappointment.
There are four characters in the story, and Mrs. Mallard is the protagonist. Louise has heart disease, and she is entrapped between her desires and reality, which contrast one another. She is depicted as a subservient woman who has stayed in a loveless marriage for society’s sake. Louise represents women’s role in the 19th century when a woman was expected to stay home, take care of the children, and live for their husband. Louise breaks the stereotype because she does not want to do that but dreams of freedom and living for herself. She realizes it when she finds out that Mr. Mallard is dead.
One should note that the story is imbued with symbolic images with profound meanings. Heart trouble, an open window, the spring season, a latchkey, and Louise’s room are symbolic in many ways. Mrs. Mallard has “heart trouble”, and this is not accidental; perhaps, it reflects her suffering from having to stay in a loveless marriage. When her husband turns out to be alive, her heart stops. It implies that society resists women’s freedom. Heart disease indicates a marriage breakdown, which is a significant social construct. The open window and the spring season symbolize new opportunities for Mrs. Mallard. The window represents a ‘gate’ to Louise’s new self-possessed life.
When she is looking through the window, she realizes the life ahead and feels that she is a different person. The spring season symbolizes the rebirth of Louise’s nature. She is awakening after a harsh winter with her husband. The latchkey is a key to the front door, and it represents patriarchy because Mr. Mallard has the key. It means that Louise is limited because she only has a key to her room. She is not allowed to go out and come back whenever she wants, unlike Mr. Mallard. Louise’s room and her armchair represent the protagonist’s safety. It is the only place where she can feel like herself.
The analysis of the story shows that Chopin’s story represents the idea that most marriages result in a lack of independence and at least some repression of the women. Through the character of Mrs. Mallard, the story conveys ideas regarding the limitations women might feel when they are in a marriage. The message of The Story of an Hour is that life is full of irony and unexpected turns. The author uses plenty of ironies, foreshadowing, and symbolism to paint a sympathetic view of Mrs. Mallard and to comment on marriage and gender inequality in the 19th century.
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J. S. Murray’s “On the Equality of the Sexes” Essay
Updated: Jun 12th, 2021
Judith Sargent Murray is a writer and a poet, known for her advocacy for women’s rights. The author discussed the topic of equality in the eighteenth century, which was a radical viewpoint at that time. This paper presents the analysis of Murray’s On the Equality of the Sexes, which was published in 1790. It addresses the linguistic devices used to convey meaning, the elements of fiction, and the theme presented in the paper. The paper concludes that Murray’s work is a notable piece from the perspectives of its innovativeness, irony, and persuasiveness.
Irony can be considered one of the mist significant ways Murray selects to convey meaning; its significance for the work will be discussed in detail below (Pizzetta 1). It is vital to add that irony offers “radical destabilizing possibilities”, which is why the author involves it in the text (Walsh 93). On the Equality of the Sexes presents the examples of ambiguity as well. For instance, the author writes that “the torpid spirit mingling with its clod can scarcely boast its origin from God” (Murray 3). The word “clod” can be interpreted in several ways; one of its meanings is the piece of earth, while the other one is a dull person.
In these words, the author seems to criticize individuals who believe that any man, even the least intelligent one, is better than a woman. She says that those who are not smart may be less godly that they think they are. It is possible to say that the text presents ambivalence as well. For instance, in the very first line of her work, Murray seems to agree with the opinion society has, but in the next one, she questions it, saying that the future experience will reveal the truth (Murray 3).
Elements of the Fiction
It is possible to say that On the Equality of the Sexes is written in a persuasive but ironic tone. She author presents the views society has on the differences between males and females and questions them, revealing her opinion and helping the reader to see the contrast between these opposing perspectives. She refers to people who “eat, and drink, and all their work is done”, not willing to learn more about the world (Murray 3). The author contrasts these individuals with others, seeking the causes of events, and having curious minds. These words are ironic, as Murray implies that men do not have to work hard to be perceived smart, because for society, their gender implies higher intellectual capacities.
Thus, one of the figures of speech that can be seen in Murray’s work is irony. For instance, she starts one of her lines with “as if” when discussing the perspectives society has about women (4). She presents her viewpoint in the way that questions the societal norms of her time. Murray’s words show that the author does not believe that women are servants, while men are leaders. Her tone can be considered mocking; she laughs at the existing views and wants to illustrate that they are comic. Pizzetta notes that Murray incorporates irony to “ameliorate the expectations” society has about women (1). It is possible to conclude that the quality of the elements the author incorporates in her work is high, as her ironic tone is not offensive but contributes to her advocacy for the idea.
The primary theme that can be traced in the work is equality between sexes. The author creates On the Equality of the Sexes to discuss the perceptions society of her time has regarding the differences between men and women. She notes that a person’s intellectual properties do not depend on gender. Murray says that “some there are who wish not to improve, who never can the path of knowledge love” (3). She implies that if a person is not curious and does not aspire after knowledge, they cannot be intelligent regardless of their sex. The author criticizes the traditional gender roles of her society. Murray notes that women are creative and have lively imagination; they are masters of deception and speculation (5). She believes that their minds can do greater things than housework.
In her words, Murray also demands the reader to “grant that their minds are by nature equal” (6). She argues that the perceived superiority of males is not determined by their higher intellectual properties but their differences in education for boys and girls. In her age, boys were encouraged to study science and math, while female students had to learn how to take care of their households. Murray’s work suggests that the female brain is not limited in any way compared to the mail one; instead, society suppresses women’s intellectual capabilities by forcing them to perform unfulfilling tasks.
This work is significant from the perspective of feminism, especially considering the fact that it was written in the eighteenth century. It is possible to say that Murray’s ideas presented in On the Equality of the Sexes are ahead of her time. As mentioned above, in the author’s society, women are perceived differently than men from the viewpoints of their intellectual qualities, expectations, and approaches to education. It is notable that although Murray’s views can be considered radical for her time, her statements and judgements do not intend to offend men. The author’s arguments are designed to challenge the system that judges people differently based on their sex. It is possible to say that Murray’s views are progressive; they contribute to the development of feminist ideas in society of her time.
On the Equality of the Sexes is also notable from the perspective of sociology. Murray writes that “the soul unfetter’d, to no sex confin’d” (4). These words mean that a person’s soul is not confined to their gender, and that gender cannot correspond to the complexity of a soul. The author’s perspective is also revolutionary for her time, as the idea about genders and their meanings are still disputed and questioned today. Murray’s work is significant from both the feminist and the sociological perspectives, as the woman discusses the ideas at the time when females are forced to focus on particular topics and center their lives around their chores and households.
Murray’s On the Equality of the Sexes is a persuasive and innovative work that presents arguments for the equality of sexes. The piece was written in 1790; it features a radical perspective on societal norms and the concept of gender that was uncommon for that time. The use of irony helps the author to convey her criticism while not offending any groups of individuals directly.
Murray, Judith Sargent. Selected Writings of Judith Sargent Murray, edited by Sharon M. Harris, Oxford University Press, 1995.
Pizzetta, Candis. “A Darwinian Approach to Judith Sargent Murray’s “On the Equality of the Sexes.” International Journal, vol.6, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-9.
Walsh, Sue. “Gender and Irony: Children’s Literature and Its Criticism.” Asian Women, vol. 32, no. 2, 2016, pp. 91-110.
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Gender Role Expectations in “The Odyssey” by Homer Essay
Updated: Jun 12th, 2021
The Odyssey by Homer represents many characters of female monsters and immortals, which significantly influence Odysseus’s journey. These characters include Calypso, Circe, Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis among others, and their role in Odysseus’s life is critical to have an effect on his further course in the hero’s journey. The reason is that, in most cases depicted in the work, these female characters are even more powerful than male mortals, or they have power equal to male gods. Although female characters in The Odyssey can be viewed as evil creatures that are not determined by their gender, Homer would consider gender equality as a cultural monster because of associated threats and anxiety.
Women depicted by Homer in his work seem to be the source of danger and obstacles for men in the case when they have too much power. There are many situations in the work when Odysseus as a man cannot control his choice, course, crew, and even his will because of the females’ impact. Thus, when Homer depicts female characters, including monsters, as having power equal to that of males, it is possible to state that he considers gender equality as a cultural monster leading to destruction. The reason is that many behaviors of these female characters are masculine in their nature, and they need to be further discussed with reference to examples.
There are many illustrations of a kind of gender equality in The Odyssey, especially when discussing the behavior and actions of female immortals. For instance, Calypso and Circe try to seduce Odysseus, and in this case, they act like men when avoiding a submissive role in relationships (Homer 64-80). Sirens also play a similar role while attracting men for the purpose of seducing them (Homer 157-160). In this case, female Sirens even have more power than males because mortals cannot cope with the desire to succumb to the temptation. These examples demonstrate that immortal women in The Odyssey tend to act as men, and this behavior is almost always dangerous for males.
Scylla and Charybdis represent the other type of female monsters in the work who also have powers to control men. Thus, Scylla and Charybdis embody disgusting female immortal creatures that are also irresistible. They are not attractive, sensitive or helpful like other depicted female immortals in The Odyssey, but they seem to personify all the evil associated with women and give a reason not to trust females. The actions of these monsters are masculine as their goal is to do all possible to kill Odysseus and the members of his crew (Homer 158-167). As a result, the body of a female monster in The Odyssey can be viewed as a cultural concept associated with gender equality fearing the males of the period when Homer lived and wrote his story.
It is possible to state that the gender-related expectations regarding female immortals in The Odyssey are not supported in most cases depicted in the work. Instead, it seems that Homer refers to female monsters as the examples to demonstrate the destructive consequences of regarding women as strong human beings or individuals equal to men. From this perspective, it is possible to conclude that Homer would perceive the idea of gender equality depicted in a specific manner in his work as a kind of a cultural monster that needs to be avoided.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Anthony Verity, Oxford University Press, 2016.
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Feminist Perspective in “Ruined” Play by Nottage Essay
Updated: Jun 7th, 2021
Ruined is a play written by an American playwright Lynn Nottage. This is a story about the issues of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the civil war. The play provoked a strong public reaction in different parts of the world. While some people, like a Dean at Princeton University, find some false notes in the drama, others actively support the narrative choice of the author (Dolan). Indeed, the play raises topical questions about women’s plight in the modern world and deserves to be supported.
The comments of ‘Anonymous’ published as a response to the review of Jill Dolan, demonstrate the importance of women’s role as mothers during the war. The author links the story of Mama Nadi with the story of Mother Courage who lost her three children, trying to get benefits from the war. They also highlight how significant it is to never engage in war since both women and men lose a lot as a result of military actions. The author expresses concern that sometimes it is suggested that women suffer more than men during wartime. Overall, the comment contains very positive feedback about the play which is considered as “genius”.
I, personally, agree with the opinion of the author of the comment. Indeed, Mama Nadi is an entirely different character that has nothing to do with Mother Courage from the play of the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. While Mother Courage was trying to make money out of the war without thinking of her children, Mama Nadi felt a deep pain inside. She understands that she has to use other women to save her daughters. Moreover, Mama Nadi took care of all the women in her house. She said: “I expect my girls to be well-behaved and clean. I provide a bed, food, and clothing. If things are good, everyone gets a little” (Nottage 12). Therefore, even though the business of Mama Nadi based on using sexual attractiveness of women, she appears to be more thoughtful and less selfish than Mother Courage.
However, I cannot fully accept the idea of the author about a total rejection of war as a means of overthrowing the political power in the country. There is no doubt that it is better to avoid military actions, but the author did not suggest any other ways to deal with the current political situation in their state. I think that it is not a good idea to wait for a better time without doing anything fearing the war. Something needs to be done to improve people’s lives in the future. If it is not possible to avoid war, then it is necessary to prepare the population, to evacuate women, children, and elders from the places of military actions.
I would also like to add that the author’s concerns about reducing the role of men in the war have no basis. There are a lot of works dedicated to the heroism of men in wars, such as What It Is Like To Go To War by Karl Marlantes, Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce, or War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. However, the play Ruined is one of the works that aims to show women’s lives and their plight during the war. I think that concentration on women’s issues is one of the most strong sides of the play. Even nowadays, in the 21st century, we still see evidence of women’s discrimination in different parts of the world. Thus, Congo became the worst place for women in the world during the armed conflicts there (Kahozi 1). Therefore, it is extremely important to pay attention to the world community to the issues faced by women during the war either in Congo or any other places.
Dolan, Jill. “Ruined, by Lynn Nottage.” Feminist Spectator, Web.
Kahozi, Daniel. The Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman: Novelists, Playwrights, and Memoirists on the Congo Armed Conflicts (1996-2010). Dissertation, University of Texas, 2016. UT, 2016.
Nottage, Lynn. Ruined. Dramatist’s Play Service, Inc., 2010.
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Gender in George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss” Essay
Updated: Jun 4th, 2021
The Mill on the Floss was published in 1860 when a vast majority of people believed that women and men had inherently different capabilities. These beliefs were deeply embedded in the dominant culture and social order of the era and were frequently exposed and criticized by 19th-century authors. The theme of gender discrimination can be found in the novel in the storylines of Maggie Tulliver and her brother Tom.
For instance, since very childhood, Maggie was very curious and smart and yearned to learn new things. However, female education in the 19th century was almost non-existent, and parents rarely sent girls to schools as women did not play an active social role and mostly became caretakers. The risk of getting no education hanged over Maggie as well because Mr. Tulliver preferred to send Tom to school instead of her.
At the same time, Maggie was exposed to more strict behavioral expectations than Tom and other male characters. For instance, she was forced against her interest to do various chores and engage in regular activities that women were expected to like and perform, such as patchwork:
Oh dear, oh, dear, Maggie, what are you thinkin’ of to throw your bonnet down there? Take it upstairs, there’s a good girl, an’ let your hair be brushed, and put your other pinafore on, an’ change your shoes – do, for shame; an’ come an’ go on with your patchwork, like a little lady (Eliot 11).
Since Maggie considered patchwork a “foolish work” and often did not conform to an image of a lady, she frequently encountered disapproval on the part of others, both males and females (Eliot 12). However, a punishment that a girl could receive for not behaving like a lady was incomparable in its severity to the punishment that an adult woman could face. In Maggie’s case, her deviant behavior made her a social outcast.
When Tom became the master of the mill, he wanted his sister to be a housekeeper. However, instead of leading this traditional way of life, Maggie gave in to her feelings and chose to run away with Stephen Guest. The romance did not last for long, and she shortly returned home without marrying him. As a result, people became outraged by her behavior and started to look down upon her. Noteworthily, all the blame for this brief romance was laid on the woman’s shoulders, whereas Stephen was not judged by anyone. Even Maggie’s brother turns away from her when she comes back home for refuge:
You will find no home with me, he answered with tremulous rage. ‘You have disgraced us all. You have disgraced my father’s name. You have been a curse to your best friends … I wash my hands of you forever. You don’t belong to me (Eliot 434).
The overall situation that intensified the conflict between Maggie and Tom demonstrates that men in the Victorian era enjoyed much more freedom than females who were subject to multiple prejudices. In accordance with the values of the dominant culture and common gender stereotypes, Tom believed that his sister had to be innocent, modest, socially passive, and must concentrate on caring for her family. As such, Maggie was not against the role of a caretaker at all, and she loved Tom and was, to some degree, submissive to him. Nevertheless, she held a set of other values as well and longed for independence, which she could not get without a struggle and social condemnation. Therefore, it was hard for the character to choose just one side and devote herself to it entirely.
Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Wordsworth Classics, 1999.
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Women’s Bodies in Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” Research Paper
Updated: Jun 24th, 2021
Each historical period produces its own ideals of feminine beauty, and the Victorian era is no exception. According to Hoffman-Reyes, morality, chastity, fragility, decency, docility, and frigidity were among the main “outwardly demure attributes” of Victorian feminine beauty (9). These qualities were expected from 19th-century women and encouraged through various conventional practices and behavioral norms, including engagement in work, eating, grooming, and other activities.
Based on this, a beautiful female body may be regarded as an “aesthetic artifact” crafted through the values and concepts of the dominant ideology (Hoffman-Reyes 1). Thus, it is also valid to say that the images of female bodies in literature convey symbolic meanings that allow readers to interpret them within a broader cultural and social context of historic times when a literary piece was written. Considering this, the following question may be asked: which social and cultural qualities does Catherine’s body image in Wuthering Heights has and how does it evolve throughout the plot?
At the beginning of her adulthood, Catherine is represented as an ideal of 19th-century feminized beauty. Living in Thrushcross Grange after her injury, she engages in customary practices and adopts the local lifestyle. With the help of her mistress who tried to raise Catherine’s self-respect “with fine clothes and flattery,” the character changed her manner of dressing (Brontë and Brontë 43). From “a wild, hatless little savage jumping into the house, and rushing to squeeze us all breathless” Catherine transformed into “a very dignified person, with brown ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver, and a long-cloth habit, which she was obliged to hold up with both hands that she might sail in” (Brontë and Brontë 44).
Although this manner of dressing and looking was considered beautiful, the character later found it restricting. However, not only did this feminine clothing limited her movements but also interfered with her independence, freedom of choice, and behavior. For instance, Catherine might not untie her hat herself as it could disarrange her curls (Brontë and Brontë 44). This image of a dignified lady whose very dresses seem to not allow her to relax and move easily is in sharp contrast with Catherine’s body image as a child.
Further Research What is the setting of Wuthering Heights? When Does Wuthering Heights Take Place? Where does Wuthering Heights take place? What is the Meaning of the Name Heathcliff? What genre is Wuthering Heights? How is Heathcliff a Byronic Hero?
Before the injury and a few-week stay in the Grange, the character was both freer and happier. She could race with Heathcliff, walk in the moors, and enjoy all other things that children like doing. It is valid to say that the earlier state of freedom was Catherine’s true identity, whereas the later transformation into a lady can be regarded as its loss. Through wearing more lady-like clothes, she began to comply with social and cultural expectations of what a Victorian woman should look like and how she must behave.
Consequently, she started to realize these restrictions and the detrimental effects of the cultural environment on herself. In the end, this realization and the drastic difference between the imposed body image and her natural inclinations led the character to an intense identity crisis and a state of psychological distress.
Based on the abovementioned observations, it is valid to say that the literal limitations of Catherine’s new manner of dressing correspond with the more metaphorical ones. Her new clothes and the overall body image serve as symbols of female suppression in the society of the 19th century. As the character transits into womanhood, she loses the freedom of expression and the ties with everything that brought her joy before.
Brontë, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Hoffman-Reyes, Lisa Michelle. Subversive Beauty – Victorian Bodies of Expression. Dissertation, University of South Florida, 2014.
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“Medea” by Euripides: Women Are Not Unfortunate Essay
Updated: Jun 2nd, 2021
Euripides’ Medea reflects a woman’s inner world and addresses the troubles of females regarding their freedom. The given speech demonstrates Medea’s history of struggle with members of the opposite sex. She emphasizes that a woman’s happiness or well-being in life is highly dependent on the chance of getting a decent and good man. Throughout the text, she claims that being a man is far better than being a woman.
However, it is critical to address that Euripides does not imply that women are unfortunate. On the contrary, he wants to illustrate how they perceive their existence and do not understand the hardships of being a man. Euripides aims to show women’s perspective and demonstrate that they underestimate men’s issues.
The speech given by Medea can be interpreted as an opinion of most women about the patriarchic system and how their liberty is reliant on the other party. In the beginning, she highlights the fact that a woman can only be happy if she meets a decent man. It is important to note that Medea says, “And he, my husband, has turned out wholly while” (Euripides et al. 8). She wants to point out that her circumstances were not positive.
Medea says, “take for our bodies a master; for not to take one is even worse” (Euripides et al. 8). Here, Euripides attempts to show how women feel trapped and dependent on men in order to survive and feel protected. In addition, she states, “A good one or bad one; for there is no easy escape” (Euripides et al. 8). The author tries to illustrate that a woman cannot leave a marriage, even if it does not bring satisfaction or happiness. Therefore, Euripides demonstrates that females are forced to be with a male, and once she is bound to a companion, she cannot get out of this partnership.
Moreover, the speaker addresses the privileges and freedom of being a husband, whereas a wife is not able to do the same. Medea says, “But we are forced to keep our eyes on one alone” (Euripides et al. 9). She claims that a man can enjoy his spare time with his friends and colleagues, whereas a woman is socially restrained. Later, she states, “But I am deserted, a refugee, thought nothing of by my husband” (Euripides et al. 9). Medea is trying to compare herself with a prisoner, chained to her male master. Lastly, she says, “I would very much rather stand three times in the front of battle than bear one child” (Euripides et al. 9). In other words, she is trying to claim that a man’s struggles and duties are not as difficult as a woman’s hardships.
In conclusion, it is important to note that Euripides had two goals in the given piece of speech, which is to show women’s perspective and how they underestimate the hardships of men. The given statement is an honest expression of Medea’s thoughts and opinion on patriarchic inequality. However, Euripides is attempting to convey a different message, where he shows the females’ perspective and how they dismiss the struggles men are forced to go through.
The state of affairs during that time was in favor of men, but the current circumstances are significantly better. Nevertheless, it is also true that previously, males had more problems than now, which means that women are not unfortunate, but all people had troublesome lives. A female cannot comprehend the realities of war and battles, where people express the most violent and merciless behavior. Thus, she cannot compare it with a naturally occurring activity, such as giving birth.
Euripides et al. Euripides’ Medea. GreekDrama Co., Ltd, 1985.
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Gender and Illness in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Essay
Updated: May 25th, 2021
Considering that the rest-cure prescribed to the protagonist in the Yellow Wallpaper can be regarded as a symbol of female oppression, the research paper will aim to answer the following question: was the standard 19th-century treatment for a nervous breakdown in women a method for forcing them into traditional social and behavioral roles?
The rest-cure described by Gilman in her story was a form of physical imprisonment for the protagonist as it restricted her behaviors: “So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.” Notably, any of her attempts to write were met with “heavy opposition.” It is possible to say that the forbiddance to write is particularly meaningful in the story considering that other characters might think that writing (an activity that was traditionally associated with males) was one of the main reasons leading her to the breakdown.
Additionally, the main form of psychological imprisonment was the character’s obedience to her husband who did not believe in her sickness and did not allow her to think that it was something more than a “temporary nervous depression.” Due to his “loving” yet paternalizing approach, she found it difficult to express herself and plunged into deeper psychological distress.
Inward and Outward Experiences
When the woman escaped from the wallpaper, as the protagonist put it, she was freed from the psychological constraints imposed on her by the society (from her inward perspective). Before that, she had to comply with norms and strive to meet others’ expectations even when it was against her instincts and individual aspirations.
After the woman escaped, she felt joy and relief for the first time after her sickness and was able to do anything she wanted: “It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!” At the same time, from the outward perspective, it might look like she went completely insane because, for the rest of the society, the notion of acceptable female behavior did not change as nobody else in the story went through the same transformative experience as the protagonist.
This essay on Gender and Illness in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.