‘What writers tend to demonstrate in texts which explore relationships between men and women, is that women have always been relatively powerless and the victims of society’s double standards’ Compare and contrast the extent to which this interpretation applies to your chosen three texts.
Throughout Literature the role and position of women has been constantly one of debate and controversy. For centuries women have struggled to exert any power or individual identity through times of male dominance. The novel The Great Gatsby as well as the play A Streetcar Named Desire and lastly the poetry of Anne Sexton, were all written during the 20th Century in America. Throughout the 20th Century, attitudes towards women in the USA were changing, the war had given an opportunity for women to realize and prove that they could look after the household without men. This called for much debate about the rights and roles of women which carried on throughout the 20th Century and inspired many of the characters and themes within Literature. In all three texts interactions between men and women are explored and represented in different ways. Each painting pictures of women whose compliance and submissiveness have resulted in their portrayal of being male dominated victims of society’s double standards.
Central to the victimization of women in all three texts is their objectification by men. In The Great Gatsby, Tom refers to Myrtle as ‘My girl’; the possessive pronoun indicates that Tom feels an ownership over her. It is prominent that Myrtle is Tom’s mistress; therefore despite not being married to her, he feels he has the right to own her. This could be an example of Tom being ‘moralistic without being moral’ as Ronald Berman puts it, by the way that Tom feels this is a right that he has despite not being Myrtle’s husband, due to the fact that he is a man in society with more power than a women. Name calling can also be seen within A Streetcar Named Desire, when Stanley refers to Stella as ‘My baby doll’, the use of the word doll suggesting she is a thing Stanley can play with, an object that he has control over. After hitting Stella he shouts to Eunice that ‘I want my baby down here’, addressing both Stella and Eunice in a disrespectful way, as demonstrated by the word ‘want’. Stanley feels it is his right to have her back despite just having hurt her, showing no regards for how she may be feeling, highlighting the fact that Stanley doesn’t treat her like a real person. Similarly, Anne Sexton uses objectification throughout her poetry. The poem ‘Us’ describes how the persona was ‘undid’, ‘placed’ and ‘crowned’, the use of these verbs depict how the persona is being controlled, seeming relatively powerless. ‘Buying the Whore’ uses metaphors to describe what is assumed to be a woman. This is one of the few poems which takes the persona of a man, showing how Sexton views the perspective of men, and that it is the views of women that are in need of being expressed in a patriarchal society of strong male voices. Writing at a time when women’s suffrage was highly controversial and publicized, Sexton exerts her support for this movement. Much like Fitzgerald does with the power within some of his female characters. Other than the last, every stanza reads ‘You are the’, this direct addressing of the reader appears threatening, and indicates the manipulation that is occurring between the persona and the women, similar to the manipulation that Stanley exercises over Stella. The ‘Roast beef’ that the persona compares the woman to seems disturbing, in that he thinks of her as a piece of meat that he can eat. The ‘glass’ that she is compared to is perhaps a reference to her weakness and vulnerability, this idea is deepened when the person talks about paying for her to ‘shatter’, his power over her is exemplified in this. Diane Wood Middlebrook felt that ‘Anne Sexton’s love of poems gave American Literature its first fully sexual heroine’, this is...
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