Roles of Women in Literature

Page 1 of 2

Roles of Women in Literature

By | March 2005
Page 1 of 2
The Realm of Women in Literature
"So it is naturally with the male and the female; the one is superior, the other inferior; the one governs, the other is governed; and the same rule must necessarily hold good with respect to all mankind." This quote, spoken by the famous Aristotle, proves to be timeless. The words express knowledge concerning gender that proves to be centuries ahead of its time. Aristotle however, may not have even realized the amount of truth expressed in these few, simple words. Men are commonly thought of as the dominant of the two sexes, but as we have seen through many of the literary works studied, this is most certainly not the case. In dealing with books such as Macbeth written by William Shakespeare and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet, it becomes clear that this quote holds true in a much different way than originally intended. In both of these novels the women involved are anything but the innocent bystanders, but rather the manipulator and catalyst behind the scenes. Out of these two books, two strong and memorable female personas arise, that of Lady Macbeth, as well as that of Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Through both Macbeth as well as The Maltese Falcon women are portrayed in a rather manipulating manner, symbolic of both evil as well as deception.

From the very beginning of the play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as an extremely strong female character who undoubtedly controls her husbands thoughts and actions. It is clear her position in the relationship, she orders Macbeth to become king, just as the witches have forseen. Lady Macbeth's burning ambition to be queen drives her to the point of insanity. She stops at nothing to gain power and uses Macbeth as the enforcer for her plans. This power is clearly illustrated as her husband follows her command to kill the king of Scotland, she constantly taunts Macbeth bringing him even further under her control. She is quite the opposite of how we generally assume feminine...