Love and Aiken

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Patriarchal society has hindered or prevented women from realizing their creative possibilities. Often, the derogatory stereotypes of women in literature are written by men merely to enforce the relationship of power in society. In an ideal world, men and women are treated equally in life and literature; but in reality, the nature of relationships in Western society clearly identifies that society is predominately still patriarchal. In fact, women appear to take a subordinate role in many examples of classical literature, specifically in Conrad Aiken's short story "Mr.Arcularis." The protagonist, Mr.Arcularis, experiences a sea-voyage, which evidently represents his journey to death. On his journey to heaven, Mr. Arcularis relives parts of his life, including his interaction with the women in his life. Ultimately, the women with whom he interacts flow through three stages of his life and define Arcularis. The first stage, and the most important woman in his life is his mother; later, as a young man his mind is focused on the physicality of women, and the last stage, when he realizes that a woman is not an object to be used, but a person to be loved.

As Mr.Arcularis embarks on his voyage to the afterlife he relives past experiences with the important women from his life, beginning with those from his childhood. As Mr.Arcularis is being wheeled out of his room, he has a brief encounter with his elderly nurse Miss Hoyle, and he says to her, "Good-by Miss Hoyle, and thank you for everything. You were very kind to me and I fear I was a nuisance"(Aiken 87). It appears he is searching for reassurance to clarify his ego. He wants her to relate that he is not a nuisance, but that his time under her care is meaningful. Aiken ponders, "She reminded him of someone. Who was it? He tried in vain to remember while he said good-by to her"(Aiken 87). Undeniably, Miss Hoyle is a parallel representation of Arcularis' mother. He wants Miss Hoyle to accept him, love him, and...