A typical woman in the 1950’s would be a feminine stay-at-home mom that cooks, cleans, and takes care of the children. Contrarily, a typical man would be a masculine father figure that wakes up every morning to go to work and returns in the evenings in time for supper. In Sloan Wilsons novel, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Tom and Betsy Rath epitomize the model precisely, or so it seems. They are a young couple that has everything going for them: three children, a decent home, and a steady income. Even though they have every reason to be happy there is something missing that leads to their discontentment. From Betsy’s vast list of desires and dreams to Tom’s secret past and inclination to fulfill his wife’s wants, the two suffer from a feeling of detachment and dissatisfaction that leads them to reevaluate their lives and gender roles.
From the beginning of the novel, Betsy realizes that there is a feeling of discontent and a problem that is interfering with her marriage and way of life, yet also realizes that compared to others her life is not so bad. However, she still strives and competes for something to enhance her life. Continuously throughout the novel Betsy takes control and orders Tom around. She urges him to apply for better-paid jobs so that they can purchase a larger and more expensive house. She desires to move forward in the world of consumerism, acquiring anything that will make her superior to others. Betsy fills the shoes of the relationship and makes the majority of the decisions in their lives. At times she makes Tom feel bad about his way of living after returning from the war. She is constantly reminding Tom of their lives before the war and how great everything was. She recalls their relationship before the war to be “like children playing house” (Wilson 111). Betsy mentions how exciting the times three months before the war were and how Tom was willing and sought to go above and beyond in pleasing her every need. From an...
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