Many authors explore gender roles in their writings. Kate Chopins The Story of an Hour uses gender in describing a woman that feels socially oppressed in her marriage. Marge Piercys Barbie Doll explores gender roles by describing a woman as she goes through life and her infatuation with becoming the perfect image of society. Each of these authors uses women and how these women deal with their situation. Kate Chopin uses nature and Mrs. Mallard inner feelings, while Marge Piercy uses societies assumptions and their effect.
Kate Chopins The Story Of an Hour is a perfect example of social oppression that takes place in many marriages. The Story of an Hour shows that marriages no matter how much love can be an institution that oppresses, represses, and is a source of discontent among human beings. Mrs. Mallard has just found out that her husband has been killed in a train accident and she also is tragically stricken with heart disease. Mrs. Mallard loved her husband. She wept at once after finding out that he had been killed and went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her (Chopin 27). She goes into the room and makes her way to the window. There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach her soul (Chopin 27). She felt depression coming upon her so she looked into the sky for answers.
Marriage was not kind to Mrs. Mallard, her life was dull and not worth living, her face showed the years of repression. If she did love this man, why was marriage so harmful to her? Marriage was a prison that she had come to realize and she knew that her social oppression had finally come to a close. Marriage oppressed her, she needed freedom, freedom to grow and experience new and exciting things. Free! Body and soul free! She kept whispering (Chopin 28). By this she meant she could finally see the world as it as she wanted to see it. She was finally free to do what she wanted when she wanted. Mrs. Mallard loved her husband, but she loved freedom more.
In Marge Piercys Barbie Doll a young girl is troubled by the classification of what it takes to become a beautiful woman.Barbie Doll details the image that society projects upon women. From an early age young women struggle to conform to the standards that society has defined for them. Beautiful dolls such as Barbie are frequently the first source of association that young girls have with the image that society has placed upon them.
From the start the girlchild was given gifts that stained in her mind as what she was suppose to become in life. With the little dolls, GE stoves and irons, and lipstick her parents put this ideal image of the perfect woman in her head. With these types of presents the girlchild is already learning her role in society.
In puberty a classmate delivers a cruel blow by telling her you have a great big nose and thick legs (Piercy 223). Here we see the beginning of a conflict that will plague the young girl for the rest of her life. Although a girl can be healthy and intelligent, it is not expected for her to possess the physical qualities of strong arms and back, abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity (Piercy 223). These traits typically being male, the young girl sees them as being unnatural and negative. The girl feels as if she owes society an apology for possessing these characteristics. Piercy drives the point home by writing, everyone saw her fat nose on thick legs (Piercy 223). This line shows the ugliness the girl feels by not measuring up to the perfect sociological image.
In the third stanza the girl is told, to play coy, exhorted to come on hearty, exercise, diet, smile and wheedle (Piercy 223) to attract men. She is to employ these things, which are actually fake, and not a true representation of what she is on the inside.She is to do these things to solidify her role as the ultimate female. Her good nature wore out like a fan belt (Piercy 223) symbolizes this loss of self and a change in the girls attitude. The girls emotional suffering is so intense that she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up (Piercy 224). As a result of her depression she chooses death as a solution to end her pain and to compensate for the loss of her true identity. The one society failed to recognize and adore.
In the final stanza of Barbie Doll Piercy utilizes ironic imagery to convey to the readers the senseless manner in which society views young women. Doesnt she look pretty? everyone said (Piercy 224). Tragically and ironically, the girl is recognized as pretty only in death. The author writes Consummation at last (Piercy 224) to convey to us that in death the girl has achieved societys goal for her.
Each of these works portrayed women in different situations and how they handled them. In the Story of an Hour Mrs. Mallard finally find freedom but at the cost of her husbands death. In Barbie Doll the only way the girlchild could finally bestow the perfect sociological image was by suicide.
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