Powerful and Submissive Women in Literature

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Powerful and Submissive Women in Literature Female behavior may vary depending on the role they play within their families, jobs or lives. Since the inception of several feminist movements, women behavior has changed and evolved over the years and we see today many women of power exuding confidence and independence. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Dashiell Hammet The Maltese Falcon, ideal women are perceived to be passive, obedient and dependent on men. Elizabeth, The Intended and Effie are, respectively, examples of idealized women in the literature written by the above authors. The portrayal of women in the three stories mark the submissive role expected from women in literature and society as a whole. Further, any differences from what is idealized were portrayed in the stories as an extreme, with women depicted as deceiving and possessing undesirable behavior. By idealizing women in literature as being honest, faithful and loyal sets a positive example to all readers. Yet, it leaves a negative impression of strong and independent women, which, in essence, discourages confidence in females. The three women in the stories share the characteristic of being submissive and having their lives revolve around men. Elizabeth, from Frankenstein, is an example of the vulnerability of women portrayed in literature. Elizabeth is an orphan adopted by the Frankenstein family. “They were fond of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them, but it would be unfair to keep her in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection.” (Shelly, 17). The family was very welcoming to Elizabeth, and so was Victor Frankenstein. According to Victor, he saw Elizabeth as his “to protect, love and cherish.” (Shelly, 18). Victor was, from the moment they met, very protective of Elizabeth, as they grew into a close
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