Atwood’s portrayal of a dystopian society criticizes the present day attitudes towards women and the exaggerations depicted in the novel can be the result of the inequality between men and women today. The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel that covers the backlash of feminism. It depicts how common attitudes towards women are brought down in an extremist way. “In order to offer women “freedom from” they must give up their “freedom to”... the only offered alternatives to rape and exploitation.” (Prattas 5) In the novel, the Pre-Giledean society was considered to be a dystopia for women where they feared physical and emotion violence. The current Giledean society is to protect them from such fear and is actively promoted through re-education centres run by Aunts.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Top Girls By Caryl Churchill both feature motherhood and marriage as one of their main themes even though the texts were set at different points in time. The Bell Jar was published in 1963 around the time of the publication of Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique. The Feminine Mystique stated that the ideal housewives of the 1960’s were a myth as each one of them were secretly unhappy but never spoke out about their unhappiness due to fear of not abiding by the social normality of the time. This feeling of displacement in the social norm is what Plath bases the experiences of protagonist Esther upon and what eventually drives Esther into mental instability. Motherhood and marriage is seen to be a key factor in the society of which The Bell Jar is set ,and is portrayed as one of the things that supresses female identity when Esther is asked to be “Mrs Buddy Willard” as if she is owned by Buddy and not her own person.
The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, takes place in The Republic of Gilead where reproduction rates are declining. To counteract this, the remaining women with viable ovaries, called Handmaids, are assigned to high class households with hopes of conceiving a child. Feminism, a topic that is central to the novel, is the ideology of equality for women. However, the society in the novel is depicted as the exact opposite of feminism. By utilizing the Handmaids as a representation of the females in the Gileadean society, the author exposes the flaws of an anti-feminist society through objectification and the absence of agency.
As exemplified in Pride and Prejudice with characters like Mrs. Bennet and her child, Lydia, many ladies put money above love when it came to the subject of marriage. Perhaps the behavior of women in this time period is a question of nature vs. nurture. For females especially, society dictated class distinctions and parameters for retaliatory ridicule, while bringing emphasis towards honing “womanly” talents in lieu of formal education and opportunities. If a lady were to step out of the bounds of appropriate behavior, she would disgrace herself and most likely her family, thereby cutting them off from benefits that might otherwise shine upon accomplished personas. Mrs. Bennet’s least favorite daughter, Elizabeth, seems to be made of strong moral fiber and respectfully does not sink to the (often) poor matrimonial standards of her peers.
For example, turning down Mr. Collins may demonstrateher as a no-brainer woman among the society at that time. But by rejecting him, this suggests that Elizabeth places her own judgment over social pressures to comfort. In spite of the fact that she has been forced to get married with Mr. Collins by her mother, she persists to her strong position of rejecting his proposal. Plus, although Lady Catherine tries to strong-arm her into rejecting any proposal from Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth gets angry and asks her to get away. Hence, it can be noticed how Austen stresses on the empowerment of women through Elizabeth’s
However as both plays progress we begin to see that Nora and Mrs Arbuthnot are not like the stereotypical woman of this society when they begin to show courage and independence. Wilde has used the title of the play, ‘A Woman of No Importance’ to convey how woman were viewed in that society (which was second best to men.) This links nicely with Ibsen’s idea of calling his play ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘doll’ being a metaphor for Nora and how she is treated by her husband. In ‘A Woman of No Importance’ the majority of the play is the unravelling of Mrs Arbuthnot’s big secret about her second life which presents woman to be highly secretive. In comparison, throughout ‘A Doll’s House’ we pick up hints that Nora is a secretive woman and later come to realise that like Mrs Arbuthnot she has being hiding a large and important secret from her loved ones, and that is that she has taking a secret loan out in her husband Helmer’s name which presents woman to be extremely devious.
Whether woman are perceived as weak and feeble victims, or sinister seductresses (or not included at all), writers of this genre present this gender to the audience as either of these options which makes us question how innocent are women? Or are women significantly absent and therefore not an influence at all? Popular texts which introduce these aspects in this genre include; Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. It’s been argued these writers portray woman in different ways which outset onto society they’re role as a whole: Gothic literature can have an inclination towards female writers but also accumulate a patriarchal nightmare in which violence is constantly sanctioned on the female body. Mary Shelley is significant herself; being the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first feminists; who lived in an era of women’s writing that openly condemned patriarchy.
In 'othello', The way the three women (Bianca, emilia and Desdemona) are depicted represent the ideal expectations of women in Elizabethan society. From a feminist perspective we can gather knowledgeable aspects of textual evidence that represent hints of struggles. Iago's belief for the suspected act of adultery and desire for revenge creates an apt example of his view of women; women are mere possessions. In (II.1.290), the feelings between Iago, emilia and Desdemona are dismissed and ignored. This creates a potential struggle to men not only for the balance of good and evil but also the ideology of sanity.
Life Without Love or Independence? In Jane Eyre and Hard Times, women are portrayed in a negative light throughout their respected novels; females are represented as being second class citizens to their male counterparts, and are unable to have a thought of their own. The traditional views of Victorian era gender roles are both enforced through the outside portrayal of the women that do not fit the mold of the ideal Victorian women yet is also subverted by the feelings the women feel when they left their bonds, or the consequences of living in the suffering of the gender misogamy they endure over their lifestyle. By expressing the men through traditional Victorian masculine characteristics such as being powerful and dominant to their meek and loyal female counterparts, the novels establish early on the barrier that the protagonists struggle with merely being female. In the novels, women are treated like second class citizens when compared to men and are expected to be content with this Victorian idea of patriarchal domination.
In this novel, Julia Alvarez manages to capture and express the true feelings of women which deconstructs the stereotypes through Yo. Feminism is defined as “a political movement that works to achieve equal rights for women and men” (Hirsch 113). For the past ages, women were seen in the society as inferior to men and were greatly excluded from education and the right to property ownership. A British feminist named Mary Wollstonecraft argues, “educational restrictions keep women in a state of ignorance and slavish dependence” (Blake 117). The shattering of classifications and stereotypes, and the subversion of traditional gender roles, and the concept of sisterhood or unity among women are among the main tenets of feminist criticism.