The Experience of Gender Inequality in The Awakening, a Novel by Kate Chopin
Experience is everything when talking about a subject. If you have actual experience with the topic that you are talking about, it will be immensely helpful, as you will have had priceless insight on how and why things are happening. It is just not the same reading about something as opposed to actually being at the event, as you are reading a 2-D representation of the occurrence, while being there means that you know the ins and outs of everything personally, and have a connection to it. This is why Chopin would be a reliable narrator about oppression of women, because she experienced the injustice first hand.
In the book, “The Awakening”, readers learn about a woman named Edna who gradually escapes the oppression of her peers and tries to live life how she wants to. This does not work out in the end though, and she ends up killing herself because she thinks that no one will ever understand her. With books about aliens invading Earth and third World Wars, it does not sound too out of the ordinary, does it? Well, that is until you discover that the book was written in 1899, right before the biggest movement for women’s rights in U.S. history. With women having been persecuted for an extensive amount of time now, they were finally sick and tired of this treatment. This led to the highest tension for women’s change in history. Chopin knew exactly the injustices that were going on and how they felt because she was living with them at the time, when women were looked upon as possessions rather than human beings to form relationships with. When talking in the book, it makes sense that Chopin talked with hostility and disdain towards the social norms of the time, considering how restricting they were for Chopin in real life.
Men on the other hand would have had a hard time relating to the feelings that the women were feeling at the time. Men had been on top of the food chain for so long, that they did not know how it felt to be any lower. This is why it took so long for any changes to women’s rights to happen, because men thought that women were inferior and were just being petty. Men would make unreliable narrators because they did not really “experience” what was happening. They thought that there was nothing wrong with being able to control their wife’s whole life, even saying that they were doing their wives a favor by making decisions for them. Men found the lifestyle of the time wonderful, because it tailored around them. If a key part of the ideology at the time was that women were supposed to feel timid and weak and have the need for a protector, and men had no problem with this, then that kind of man will obviously have bias when talking of a woman breaking the social bonds and going away from her husband.
While both men and women experienced the gender inequality that happened, it is obvious that they did not experience it in the same way. While women had the short end of the stick and were restricted by harsh rules set by society, men did as they pleased and controlled their wives. And as said in the beginning, experiences are everything when talking about a subject. Therefore, if any person, not just a man were to narrate the story, they would all tell it differently. With how much bias and change can be shown when talking about the same topic from different perspectives, it makes one wonder what other events have we heard about from the wrong narrator?
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