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A History of Submissive Women in Literature

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A History of Submissive Women in Literature

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The feminine gender has long been one that has been repressed throughout history and forced to acclimate itself to a world dominated by men. Although major improvements have been made in the strife for equality, this continues to be a man’s world. In the short stories “The Chrysanthemums” and “A Rose for Emily,” as well as in the drama “A Doll’s House,” the protagonists are all frustrated women who are unfulfilled with their subservient lives. Partly imposed upon them by their setting’s historical and societal norms, they choose to either do something about it or continue to internalize their dissatisfaction.

When analyzing these pieces of literature, it becomes quite obvious which of the protagonists fall under the category of those who decided to do something about their discontent and those who did not. It is also quite interesting that those who changed their situations to their advantage were both set in the same historical timeframe, unlike the ones who did not. Both Emily Grierson from “A Rose for Emily” and Nora Helmer from “A Doll’s House” manifested this dissatisfaction with their lives and chose to challenge their oppressors. On the other hand, Elisa Allen from “The Chrysanthemums,” chose to continue living her submissive existence.

In Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily,” Emily Grierson, the protagonist, is one of these women who decides to change her fate from one of submission, due to her gender and the roles imposed on it by society, to one of control and power. In her case, though, the decision to take the reigns in her own hands seems to have originated in her subconscious. Jack Scherting, who wrote an essay on this “subconscious” state, relates Emily’s situation to the Freudian concept of the “Oedipus complex.” He writes, “Emily’s father had prevented her from maturing sexually in the normal and natural way. Thus repressed, her sexual drives emerge in a tragic form-that is to say, in abnormal and unnatural behavior”...