Tales of Modernity
Does Modernization Lead to Liberation of Women?
In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison1, Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo2 and "The Walk" by José Donoso3 women are portrayed as strong central figures in the novel. By depicting each woman in each novel as a strong and non-conforming woman the authors represent one of the key factors to modernization; the liberation of women. Through the modernization process not only did cities and governments advanced themselves but this advancement and progress led to more and more women leaving their conventional roles and becoming independent figures not oppressed by men. In each of these stories a woman has modernized herself by not subjugating herself to play the role expected of her by a man. In Song of Solomon we see this in Pilate. As Anne Z. Mickelson states in Contemporary Literary Criticisms v22, Pilate becomes "an economically-independent woman" who is able to "function outside of patriarchal values and rise successfully above social forces which are a constant threat to the black woman"(317)4. In "The Walk" Aunt Mathilda gradually goes through the process of modernization which allows her to leave her brothers' home and the duties she was accustomed to there. Finally, in Pedro Paramo Susana San Juan escapes sexual oppression by declaring herself insane. Through this means she is able to get away from the one man who longs for her; Pedro Paramo. By looking at these three women I would like to demonstrate how modernization applies to their specific lives and the worlds around them. The first central female figure we will take a look at is aunt Mathilda from Jose Donoso's "The Walk". In this story Aunt Mathilda depicts the conventional female role. She lives her every day life cleaning and cooking for her three brothers and nephew. She is presented as the woman who has suppressed her own feelings to serve the men in her family. When the dog is introduced into her life she goes through a process of change. The dog symbolizes her inner self trapped and waiting to be unleashed. Slowly her "repressed intstincts"5 come out through this dog. It is through this dog that she goes through the process of modernization. Before the dog entered her life every night she went to "the bedrooms and turned down the covers on each one of her brother's beds, folding up the bedspreads with her bony hands."(77). This description describes a very domestic woman. Further in the story she is described as follows, " She was no longer a woman who walked her dog for reasons of hygiene; out there in the streets, in the city, there was something powerful attracting her"(92). This description of her indicates that Aunt Mathilda has undergone some drastic changes. The "city" seems to be used as the reason she has changed. The narrator states that "there was something powerful attracting her" to allude to the benefits of modernization to women. "Something" as it is called has transformed this woman from a woman who has "dedicated herself to the comfort of those men," into a woman who "belonged to the noises, to the foghorns, that wafted over docks, dark or lamplit streets, houses, factories, and parks,"(93). It is key that the narrator mentions all the elements that make up the modernized city. Now Aunt Mathilda belongs to this group of things rather than the men she has been serving for so long. By describing Mathilda in this way the narrator makes a point to parallel the process of modernization with the process of liberation of women. It is precisely because of these new things and opportunities that women leave their families behind, which is what Mathilda eventually does. Her lack of emotion before she met the dog represents the oppressed woman who awaits a savior to release her from her life of servitude towards men.5 It is through this dog, which represents the process of modernization, that Mathilda gains her freedom and starts to feel what life has to offer her. Like...
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