Two Girls with the Courage to Change their World
Although most humans are born free, they can live life bound by the barriers and expectations of society. The novels The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and Sister Wife focus on female protagonists who break out of the moulds their societies place them in and form their own identities. In this essay, I will argue that these novels show how feminism has a positive impact on society and on the individuals who practise it. To do this, I will analyze how the cultures restricted females, how each protagonist resisted conformity, and the successful conclusion each character reached. In The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie, the main character, Flavia DeLuce, epitomizes the struggles women faced for equality in England during the 1950’s. In the aftermath of World War II, a new emphasis was placed on the nuclear family as the foundation of society. Although during the war many women worked outside the home and participated in the war effort, after its end they were encouraged to assume roles of wives and mothers as the government aimed to re-establish domesticity as women’s primary occupation. The fictional town of Bishops Lacey was no different. Women were expected to perform domestic work or jobs considered to be specific to their gender, such as a cook or librarian, and men were expected to perform the superior roles, such as detectives, professors or priests. The society Flavia was raised in expected females to be dependent and accepting of their male superiors. Flavia, the protagonist of the novel, can be described as an independent, self-reliant, and persistent eleven year old. Throughout the novel, her feminist qualities and resistance to the moulds of her culture are evident. Flavia verbally declares on several occasions that she is just as capable, if not more so, than her male counterparts: “Yes, I’d solve this case and present it to him wrapped up in gaily colored ribbons” (95). In this statement Flavia affirms her belief that she has the ability to solve the case just as effectively as the male detectives. Similarly, Sister Wife‘s main character, Celeste, questions the inferior place of women and their lack of rights in the context of a polygamous community. Celeste was born in Unity, home to The Movement, a conservative religious group that lives apart from mainstream, modern society. Unity is a society based on conformity and unwavering obedience, especially when it comes to women. Women in this society are not granted the option to choose; before they are born, their roles in society are already planned, “Fathers and mothers … from the time your daughter can crawl, you must teach her that she does not belong to you but to the prophet and the man the prophet will assign her to in marriage. Only these men… can take your daughters to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom” (33). This statement, spoken by the prophet, clearly shows the roles of women in Unity and their dependence on the male figures that dominate their society. Celeste, who can be described as an opinionated and individualistic young girl, has to hide aspects of her natural personality to find acceptance in Unity. Celeste begins to question the ways of The Movement as the day when she will be assigned to a husband draws near. She does not want to be married at 15; she seeks higher aspirations, such as “an education, a career, to fall in love and chose her own husband, to be independent and think for herself” (264). However, Unity would never permit Celeste to do any more than become a celestial wife. A celestial wife is a term commonly used in polygamous communities meaning heavenly or holy wife; a woman can be considered a celestial wife when their husband marries more than one women. This forces Celeste to decide whether to conform to the roles laid out for her, or to resist her male dominated society. In the novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of...
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