Sunday, September 1, 2019

19th and 20th Century Gender Expectations in Literature Essay

The late 19th century produced a myriad of successful authors, poets and play-writes that often incorporated the local customs, traditions and expectations of the time (and perhaps their own experiences) into their work. A fact of the times, even into early 20th century, is that women were not equal to men and the expectations of women were not equal as well. This point will be illustrated by comparative analysis of two separate forms of literature: Tristan Bernard’s humorous play I’m Going! A Comedy in One Act, and Kate Chopin’s short story â€Å"The Story of an Hour. † Authors can use plays, stories or poems to bring us into their world, and through imagination we can connect with them, if only briefly, and enjoy their point of view and what they are trying to convey. Through their writing, they are actually giving us a look at history and through that snapshot of time we can see the differences between society’s expectations then and now. Tristan Bernard’s (1866-1947) I’m Going! A Comedy in One Act (1915), (Clugston, 2010a), is a play set in Paris about a married couple (Henri and Jeanne) who on a Sunday morning are trying to decide how they are going to spend their day. Henri wants to go to the races but he wants Jeanne to stay home, though she wants to go with him, or to see her friend (Clugston, 2010a). The theme of the play is one of distrust and manipulation, as each truly wants to spend the day on their own, and at the end of the play that is exactly what they do (Clugston, 2010a). See more: Analysis of Starbucks coffee company employees essay In this play, Bernard uses the setting of the stage and symbolism to convey to the audience a sense of separate desires of the couple starting with the opening scene when Henri and Jeanne enter and sit on opposite sides of the room (Clugston, 2010a). Bernard, in fact, used symbolism in many of his works, and exploited the psychoanalytical technique to draw his dramas together (Degasse, 2008). What one really has to look through the mist to see, however, is how Bernard incorporates society’s expectations (or double standard) of women in  Paris (and throughout the world, really), though in a humorous and dramatic style, into the play. One has to keep in mind that the male audience of that time probably had the same attitude and beliefs as the character Henri, and though it may have been viewed as right or wrong, women were expected to be subservient and obedient while the male was allowed further freedoms. Henri wants to goes to the races alone, and ultimately, that is what he does while Jeanne stays home, but let us look deeper at the play and uncover the nuances that show the inequality of the times and how Bernard conveys that conviction. After Henri and Jeanne’s initial entrance and they set down, the first thing that happens is Henri makes a comment about how every Sunday the weather is nice until noon, then its cloudy and rainy or there is an advancing thunderstorm (Clugston, 2010a). This verbal observation of the weather may be a metaphor and actually provide two meanings; one is that it is in fact rainy and Henri is setting a negative atmosphere for Jeanne who expects him to take her out for the day, and the other could be the weekly Sunday dilemma of Henri trying to go to the races without Jeanne. The rainy, or soon to be, day also sets a tone of despair, but provides Henri with an excuse to go to the races alone and save him and his wife the additional cost of a carriage in order to avoid the rain, and additional cost of a ladies ticket (Clugston, 2010a). In truth, it is just a manipulation of the circumstances for Henri to try to dissuade Jeanne in joining him at the races (Clugston, 2010a). Then in Bernard’s I’m Going, A Comedy in One Act (1915), Henri recommends a promenade (a walk) with his wife instead of accompanying him to the races and Jeanne responds â€Å"Yes, up the Champs-Elysees together! And have you looking daggers at me all the time! Whenever I do go with you, you’re always making disagreeable remarks. † Henri responds with â€Å"Because you are in a bad humor – you’ll never give me your arm. † (Jeanne called him on his bluff, because he really doesn’t want to take a walk either), (cited in Clugston, 2010a, 1. 1. 26-29). She has no real intention of going for a walk with him as she did not intend to go to the races, but does not want to see him go alone to the races and enjoy himself alone, either. This is another example of manipulation; her manipulating him and vice versa, and starts the back and forth farce of both supposedly wanting to spend the day together when they really do not (Clugston, 2010a). When Jeanne decides Henri can go to the races alone because she intends to go see a friend, Henri decides he will stay at home and not go to the races (Clugston, 2010a). This is an obvious representation of the husband not trusting the wife, and even though she has given sanction to him to proceed, he abandons all intentions to leave because of his suspicion of her meeting with her friend and also perhaps meeting another man. The deception between both characters is obvious at this point in the play but not obviously clear as to why. Though we know by this point that Henri’s intention has always been to go to the races alone, it is not yet clear why Jeanne reacts the way she does. Is it that she is abused, or expected to stay home alone while Henri goes to the races, or does she have her own nefarious agenda, or both? Finally, and after much back and forth ruse of both characters, Jeanne decides to stay at home alone and lets Henri leave for the races alone, only to delight in the fact that she can spend her afternoon working on hats and enjoying chocolate at home as detailed immediately after Henri departs for the races in Bernard’s I’m Going! A Comedy in One Act (1915), (cited by Clugston, 2010a, 1. 1. 81-185): (Waits for a moment, listens, and hears the outer door close, then rises, and goes to the door at the back. She speaks to someone off-stage) Marie, don’t go before you get me a large cup of chocolate. Bring two rolls, too. Oh, and go at once to my room and bring me my box of ribbons and those old hats. (She comes down- stage, and says beaming) What fun I’ll have trimming hats! Throughout this play Jeanne is expected by Henri to stay at home while he enjoys the afternoon alone, and despite the opposition Jeanne gives him, she eventually desists and Henri has his way while she is left at home. This is an excellent example of how women were treated by their husbands then as compared to how most men and women interact today. There was probably no other recourse for the character Jeanne but to resolve herself to some enjoyment at home with her hats, and chocolate, and rolls. It could be argued that that is what she wanted all along, that she only wanted a reassurance that her husband loved her, but probably not, more than likely she simply had no other choice than to occupy her Sunday alone as best as she could and succumb to her husband’s wishes. There stands some ambiguity as to whether they really love each other, or if Jeanne is simply stuck and cannot get out of the situation she is in. Sixteen years earlier than the play by Tristan Bernard discussed above, but in the same era of male dominance, Kate Chopin (1850-1904) wrote several short stories and novels which also depict the sexist plight of women in her time and the choices they had to endure in order to survive, including quite possibly domestic violence in a time when no recourse was available (Tate, 2000). Unlike Bernard, who was a renowned writer at the age of 25, Chopin was considered a feminist, and as a young widow who had to raise six children alone when she lost her husband to swamp fever, she eventually succeeded by turning to writing and was widely accepted in the southern United States literary circle (Tucker, 1996). Much of her writing incorporates her own life experiences and tribulations, such as â€Å"The Awakening,† (1899) which depicts a 19th century woman who is adulterous, but maintains her strength and individuality despite of what society thinks about her (Tucker, 1996). It is of little doubt that Kate Chopin was of the same opinion and character of many of those characters in her stories. According to Leary (1968), much of her writing â€Å"Speaks of marital unhappiness and of dangers which lie in wait for people who do as they want to do without concern for other people† (p. 60). Kate Chopin’s â€Å"The Story of an Hour† (1894), (Clugston, 2010b), is written clearly and succinctly leaving little room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. Chopin’s direct style of writing draws the reader in quickly and gives immediate insight to what is happening and what the feelings of the characters are, thus increasing the understanding of what the author is trying to convey. Like Bernard, Chopin uses symbolism and tone to enhance the (in this case) imaginary setting to further the reader’s experience. Unlike Bernard, Chopin’s form was short stories and novels instead of plays to be performed in front of live audiences. It is also important to look at Kate Chopin from a biographical/historical perspective to realize Chopin has also used life experiences as a basis for some of her characters: in this story Mr. Mallard has reportedly been killed in a train accident, while in reality Kate Chopin’s father really was killed in a train accident (Tucker, 1996). According to Seyersted, (cited in Kelly, 1994, p. 332), after critiquing â€Å"Athenaise,† he states that â€Å"In spite of its ‘happy ending,’ this tale is, on a deeper level, a protest against woman’s condition. Seyersted is undoubtedly referring to women’s struggle at that time for equality with men. Closer comparison of this story with Bernard’s play will bring to the surface many similarities of the uphill struggle women of this era endured and how it is depicted and evident in our literature. In Chopin’s â€Å"The Story of an Hour,† the main character, Mrs. Mallard receives word at home that her Husband had been killed in a train accident, she was distraught and crying, and when this subsided, she retires alone to a large armchair facing an open window in her room (Clugston, 2010b). This initial reaction to her loss seems fairly normal up to this point in the story, but then the Narrator describes what Mrs. Mallard sees, smells and hears from the open window, using symbolism and tone to describe a renewal in life, as described in Chopin’s â€Å"Story of an Hour,† (cited by Clugston, 2010b, para. 5): She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. As the story unfolds, Mrs. Mallard feels an emotion coming to her which she initially cannot identify, but ultimately does identify it; it is relief and a sense of a newfound freedom (Clugston, 2010). But why would she feel this way now unless she felt oppressed or abused when her husband was alive? A better description of what Mrs. Mallard had endured under her Husband’s rule and what she imagined the future to hold is stated in the story: â€Å"There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature† (cited in Clugston, 2010b, para. 14). The Author is speaking to the reader about this issue in 1894, a very bold and controversial statement for a time in which women were not expected to behave this way. Nearing the end of the story Mrs. Mallard finally accepts her newfound freedom and rejoices to herself â€Å"Free! Body and soul free! † (cited in Clugston, 2010b, para. 19), only to be persuaded out of her room by her sister and lead downstairs just as her husband comes through the front door, he was in fact not dead after all (Clugston, 2010). Mrs. Mallard died upon seeing her husband though the doctors said it was heart disease (earlier in the story it does mention she had a weak heart), (Clugston, 2010). One has to wonder though, did Mrs. Mallard die from heart disease or is this another symbol the Author uses to express Mrs. Mallard (or any oppressed woman) would rather die than give up her freedom and individuality? Tristan Bernard’s I’m Going! A Comedy in One Act is a play written by a man in France sixteen years after Kate Chopin’s â€Å"The Story of an Hour,† which is a short story written by a woman in the United States. Though there are differences in the Authors, origin, form, audience or reader, some compelling similarities exist; the time they were written (1915 & 1894, respectively), that both Authors incorporate issues of the time into their work, and perhaps most importantly, they both display the subservient, oppressive place which women are expected to take in the 19th and 20th centuries.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

FSU Essay Topics

<h1>FSU Essay Topics</h1><p>FSU exposition themes can be extremely testing, however you should make it simpler for yoursel...