Role of Women in Literature

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The Representation of Women in Literature

The role of women in society is constantly questioned and for centuries women have struggled to find their place in a world that is predominantly male oriented. Literature provides a window into the lives, thoughts and actions of women during certain periods of time in a fictitious form, yet often truthful in many ways. Ernest Hemmingway's "Hills like White Elephants", D.H. Lawrence's "The Horse Dealers Daughter" and William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" each paint a picture of a woman who has failed to break away from her male companion, all describing a stereotypically dominated woman. Through submissive natures, compliant attitudes, and shattered egos the three women each struggle to live their lives in accordance to men, using only silent means of escape.

In Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" we are introduced to Jig. Jig is a woman who lacks the ability to make decisions without constant approval and recognition from a man who has impregnated her but who would rather she aborts the baby. Jig, unfortunately, cannot make decisions on her own, which is exemplified throughout the story, depicting her weak and dependent personality. "What should we drink?" From the opening line of the story we are introduced to a character that questions rather than acts. Someone who is unsure of not only herself but the relationship she is involved in. Though a simple question about what beverage to order can often appear courteous, this is only the first of many examples pertaining to Jig's inability to live her life as an individual. Later she questions her purpose in life, "That's all we do isn't it-look at things and try new drinks?", asking her companion to confirm for her what the meaning of her life is. By doing this Hemingway succeededs in creating a character who cannot be respected but is instead pitied. In a discussion, with her American lover, Jig comments about the hills surrounding them, comparing them to white elephants, only for him to tell her that what she is saying is wrong. Rather than defend something that is her own opinion she changes the subject and later apologizes for saying it in the first place.

""They look like white elephants", she said.

"I've never seen one," the man drank his beer.

"No, you wouldn't have."

"I might have," the man said. "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything.""
……………………..

"They're lovely hills," she said. "They really don't look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees."
Jig's main objective throughout the story is ensuring that her partner is happy. This is apparent when she tells him that she will go through with the abortion. "Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me." "And I'll do it and then everything will be fine." Through these comments it is evident that she truly believes if she has an abortion their relationship will be fine giving little thought to the emotional and physical trauma the procedure will cause. Jig's subservient attitude is indicative of her low self esteem throughout the story. She allows herself to be shaped by a man whose care for her is more than obviously not a reciprocation of hers for him. Throughout the story he manipulates her into thinking that he only wants what is best for her and that he only wants her to do what she feels comfortable doing, meanwhile constantly undermining her resolve. "[I]f you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple." "I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to if you don't really want to." Unfortunately Jig falls for every line, inevitably deciding her life's happiness is unimportant. She instead places her happiness in the hands of his, meaning that her life's enjoyment will only exist based on her ability to please her partner. "And...
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