Roles of Women

Topics: Woman, American Writers, Edna St. Vincent Millay Pages: 4 (995 words) Published: November 23, 2005
"Roles of Women"
The configuration of a woman's identity consists of the expectations that society places on her. Such expectations are still in existence today. Authors from the nineteenth and twentieth century are using literature and poetry as a vehicle for the new role and passion of the woman. Such authors as Kate Chopin, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Marge Piercy, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Henry James evoke a new sense of expectations for women in their use of literary language. One must acknowledge the differences in the expected roles of women and those the authors are portraying in order to penetrate the effect the author is trying to convey. These authors go beyond the norm and give women hope for the future.

Kate Chopin creates a female character in "At the Cadian Ball" and "The Storm" that is vivid and defiant. Calixta is the image of hope that an authentic woman dares to embody. Chopin challenges society in her literature. She tests the roles of women. For instance, the female character she depicts in "The Storm" and "The Cadian Ball" is sexually overbearing, an adulterous, and presumptuous. Radek suggest that women of the nineteenth century "were not supposed to have any real sexual contact before their marriage." The characteristics that Calixta possesses are dissimilar to the expected roles of women. The women of this time should be reserved, subservient, compliant, and gentle creatures. Henry James paints a picture of a similar vixen in Daisy Miller, although Daisy is innocent and naïve in her promiscuity. James, no doubt being male, depicts women in a role outside of that of society. He portrays Daisy as innocently flirtatious. While this is not completely immoral, it is defiant of a placid nature.

Mary Wilkins Freeman does not create as much controversy as Chopin, although she does create characters that embody independence rather than subservience. In "The New England Nun," Louisa encompasses the typical homemaker characteristics, but she...

Cited: Freeman, Mary W. "The Revolt of Mother" American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 145-159.
Hartman, Dorothy. "Women 's Roles in the Late 19th Century". 10 Aug. 2005 <>.
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. "I Being Born A Woman and Distressed" American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 575.
Piercy, Marge. "Barbie Doll" American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 1453.
Radek, Kimberly. "Women in Literature". 9 Aug. 2005 <>.
Wyatt, Neal. "Biography of Kate Chopin". 1995
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