Paper Two Part 1 Comprehension and appreciation
Essay (1994 Past Paper)
Women’s status has always been a controversial issue, especially after the Second World War ended. Since then, people from all over the world have noticed the importance of women and how much they have contributed as they have helped out a lot in the therapeutical work. Women’s works in some ways are even harsher than men’s, these can include the numerous housework, preparing meals, taking care of the children, to name but a few. Passage (a) is an excerpt from A.S. Byatt’s Still Life and passage (b) is entitled “Thoughts after Ruskin” from Elma Mitchell. Both passages showed the hardship of women, how tough their work can be and how they are being treated.
Passage (a) is a narration of a woman’s day of life. It is almost impossible that the woman only realize she has been working so long for nothing in return, metaphorically like a dog “faithful and loving” mentioned in the passage. The woman and the dog had lot in common and the passage starts off with “one day” just as sudden like this, that “she judged her husband daily now in a silent rush, making up for years of suspended disbelief, of retreat” suggesting the idea that she may have had enough and want to escape from this harsh reality. “She shelved, randomly, heaps of books she would once have circumspectly moved aside and dusted” But it just seems that she is not willing to do this anymore, not again, because she has grown tired of all these. Moreover, if her husband had noticed her hard work all these years, “he did not speak”, not even a thank you.
Passage (b) is told in the male’s perspective in the beginning. The passage talks about the daily work of women and how hard they must work everyday, while contrasting with the men’s work. The gender role then switches as the passage tries to change our perception of women, as their work may not necessarily be less tiring as seen from the female’s view. The passage shows us that the women have all the physical work to do, while the men can work in their offices comfortably. “Their distant husbands lean across mahogany, and delicately manipulate the market.”
Both passages revolve around the theme that the women have an uneasy job to do, but mostly they are not being appreciated by men. Passage (a) compares the women with the dog and her husband with Winifred, the drunk old man. It is shown that the woman obviously has a tough time working at home, as an image came into her mind of a gaunt dog as she was judging her husband, Bill. She feels that she was living like a dog, “living in a hovel with a drunk old man, kicked, beaten, bruised, staved yet lying down to howl and pine.” Passage (b) in some ways is similar to passage (a), in the sense that the passage also wants to convey to message to us that women are suffering from their everyday work. Although “while safe at home, the tender and the gentle are killing tiny mice, dead snap by the neck, asphyxiation flies, evicting spiders, scrubbing, scouring aloud, disturbing cupboards, committing things to dustbins, twisting, wringing, wrists red and knuckles white…” This is a list of work that a woman has to do as their housework, making the house looks clean and tidy, and not to mention that they have the responsibility to take care of her child. These works may seem to be quite trivial, but nonetheless time-consuming and exhausting at the same time.
In passage (a), the harsh life of a woman is shown in a more concrete way. From the passage, we can conjecture that the woman’s husband, Bill, maybe an alcoholic as the passage states as “the dog scuffling for crusts, going hungry, the man’s repentance after his drunken rages”. It is possible to assume that the woman has to suffer from her husband’s emotional rages due to the fact that he is an alcohol addict on top of her immense workload. The woman may be beaten and is starving as the man has use all his money buying alcohol and did not save any for his wife and his child. Despite all these, the man still thinks that it is his wife’s responsibility to do all the work no matter what. “It was its nature to accept blows, to attach itself. It should be neither praised nor blamed.” In passage (b), “Women reminded him of lilies and roses”, as lilies are usually associated with the idea of purity and beauty.” This is another similarity I found between the passages. Men don’t really appreciate what the women did, most of them focus on the fact that all women do is making-up and shopping.
Passage (b) employs a wide range of dictions, from “gutting and stuffing, pickling and preserving, to scalding, blanching, broiling and pulverizing.” It is a long list of verbs in their gerund form and the tone is impersonal and monotonic. All these strenuous work denoted the physical hardship that women must endure in order to prepare food for meals. They are indeed “all the terrible chemistry of the kitchens”. We can feel how cumbersome cooking can be by observing these different types of cooking methods, let alone cooking practically.
In both of the passages, they mention that taking care of a child is a woman’s job to do. But then, women always care for their child in a way that only mother does. In passage (a), the woman “made Marcus’s room new and white and clean.” She thinks that this is only a natural thing to do. In passage (b) “armed with a warm rag, assaulting noses, ears, neck, mouth and all the secret places” also reveals to us the motherly love and tender care for a child.
These two passages have exposed the topic on the hardship of being women and threw out the question of “why do men get all the credits from doing hard work?” and “why women are not being treated equally at most of the times?” The passages made the readers reflect on their current lives and their work, for both men and women. Is it the time for us to change our perspective and treatment to women and is the hard work still worth it to bare, ladies?