Depiction Of Women As Objects In Beowulf
Although women didn’t have many rights or power in the time of Beowulf, there have been many influential women since then who have contributed to gaining women equality. Viewed as prizes and obedient play-things, women didn’t get the respect they deserved in the epic and were used to portray devotion to men for completing noble actions.
Wealhtheow, Hygd, Hildeburh, Freawaru, Grendel’s Mother, and Thryth were the only primary women in the epic, and only two of them could be considered slightly relevant. Focused on the men, Beowulf lacked any concentration on the potentially powerful women, like Grendel’s mother. Wanting to avenge her son’s murder and having the power to murder the men who killed her child, Grendel’s mother was one of the only actually capable women in Beowulf; however, she was portrayed as a villan and quickly murdered for seeking redemption for her murdered child. Thryth, another ‘evil woman’, is the daughter of a king and actually has a social status unlike Grendel’s mother. She commits crimes and yet, because she is good in society, the poet narrating Beowulf does not treat her as the poet treats Grendel’s mother.
Rather than describing her as the poet did with Grendel’s mother, Thryth is viewed more positively, especially after her marriage tames her evil streak and tranquilizes her passion, as marriage did in the past for women. Instead of becoming independent and having her own ideas, Thyth is written to marry a man just to become a better person, implying that women were incapable of developing their own personalities or getting redemption on their own.
However, unlike the women in Beowulf and further in the past, women like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Rosie the Riveter, Lucy Burns, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan all contributed towards women’s suffrage and believed that women were more than trophies and objects to men. From the Woman’s Rights Activist/National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to simply a propaganda icon to Iron Jawed Angels to even NASA, these unique women all contributed to earning the rights for women across the country to make their own path in the world. Rather than complying to the men in novels who murder everything they can like in Beowulf, women of more recent times can speak for themselves, earn for themselves, and fight for themselves. Instead of being hostesses to the men who protect them, women could finally protect themselves and realize their worth instead of having a man tell them their worth. Wealhtheow, only being important enough talk about when giving men drinks and talking to Beowulf, lacks any individuality in the novel, and that’s not okay.
Women are so much more than objects and hostesses devoted to serving men, and thanks to the heroes of equality, our society is able to see that more clearly.
Despite the past consisting of tales of obedient women devoted to their husbands, we now have tales of empowering women devoted to themselves and their own beliefs rather than confining themselves to a man, leaving us with hope for the future that we may actually get equality for all. Beowulf, having a great tale about the conquers of men, lacks any focus on the conquers of women, but at least we have Susan B. Anthony to look up to.
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