Compare the Ways in Which the Roles of Women Are Portrayed, Focusing Specifically on Power in ‘the Wife of Bath’ and ‘Death of a Salesman’.

Topics: Death of a Salesman, The Canterbury Tales, Woman Pages: 8 (2549 words) Published: May 15, 2013
When focusing explicitly on the topic of a woman’s seemingly ever-evolving status, one would constantly perceive it to be a working progress of the woman and the rise of her independence. So, why when analysing both, ‘The Wife of Bath’ and ‘Death of a Salesman’ do these roles of the most prominent women seem to be in reverse? The history of a woman’s autonomy branches outwards from the past, therefore enforcing the idea of a woman, living in an earlier period, to exist under high demands of fulfilling the traditional expressive position. Yet with regards to Chaucer’s tale, why is it that Alisoun is able to possess characteristics that are both a controversy for the 14th century during in which it was written, and to a certain extent, this era momentarily? On the other hand, the 1950s ‘Death of a Salesman’ harbours a heroine who remains true to her decade’s basic notion on how both a woman and a wife should persist to be, consequently presenting Linda Loman as a stock character. With a distance of 6 centuries, is there an abstruse intention to why both the female protagonists are depicted in an unusual fashion, and totally out of the ordinary when its context is taken into account, or, is this simply the writers’ approach to manifest some sort of a response, whether it be mere shock, indulgent laughter, or utter appreciation?

The titles alone contain an instantaneous conception on how both women are portrayed concurrently. ‘The Wife of Bath’ obtains an immediate link to Alisoun, unlike ‘Death of a Salesman’ which simply refers to Willy Loman and includes no innuendo of his wife Linda. Alisoun’s ownership of the tale is reinforced by the noun ‘Wife’ as a direct association to her, suggesting that she is the focal point of the tale. But is she? The prologue is definitely in her possession with her martial history being the key plot; however the tale on the other hand clearly centres the knight as the protagonist, consequently endorsing the audience to make an initial judgment on Alisoun’s character as one which is strong enough to acquire her own title. Maybe Chaucer’s main purpose was to make his eponymous hero a female to either stagger the audience by the pragmatical meaning of this whereby such power and eminence is handed to a female character, or to purely ridicule a woman with any supremacy, and in effect, is symbolic since it contains the intention of formulating humour for an audience existing in a 14th century world. With this reasoning in mind, the common use of the noun ‘Wife’ would then become a more abstract version of this since, in essence, this is merely an idea of her control and alliance to the city. Perhaps the title ‘The Wife of Bath’ can be decoded then as a euphemism that solely associates with Alisoun’s,

‘Housbandes at chirche dore I have had five-‘

This has been translated as a misrepresentation of her being promiscuous which uses hyperbole to reinforce the concept and also assists in the beginning of a caricature adaptation of a woman who is unlike most others. On the contrary, since ‘Death of a Salesman’ purely refers to Willy, this would consequently support how dominating the male gender had been in the early 50s. In relation to Linda however, the absence of any insinuation of her in the title holds a vital insight of how she is portrayed through the play itself. This maintains the persistent imagery of Linda conserving her private role as a housewife, and to an extent, Willy’s constant positive conscience,

Willy – ‘I suddenly couldn’t drive anymore.’
Linda – ‘Maybe it was the steering wheel again.’

The adverb ‘Maybe’ certainly exhibits some indecision with Linda’s response indicating that even though she may not entirely know what Willy requires, she knows it is necessary for her to provide a reasonable answer that will help ease the blame off Willy, facilitating the assumption of Linda’s loyalty to her husband,...
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