GenderRoles in the Girl, Story of the Hour, and A Doll House
Introduction:Definition and connection of literature
In itscomprehensive sense, literature denotes any transcribed, sung, orspoken piece of work. In this regard, Widdowsonrefers to literature as any work that retain literary distinction andsemantic that focuses on literariness (16). Classifications ofliterature develop as fiction or non-fiction, which can be assertedin a prose or poetry motif. In addition, distinctions on literaturetake the form of drama, short stories, or novels and falls undernumerous categories depending on historical periods. In this regards,literature adheres to certain aspects such as genres, themes,aesthetic features, the language used, and the construction ofcharacters. Due to the presence of several forms of literature suchas poetry and prose, people distinguish or categorize literaturedepending on narrative forms, literary techniques, genres ofliterature, and field of the literary forms.
The relationshipbetween literature and life is one of significance and intimacy sinceliterature is the manifestation of social life, reasoning, andindividuals through language. Motifs of aesthetic feature orexpressions became literature when they bring people into relationswith some actual life. In fact, the influence of literature lies inits manifestation of the universal appeal to actual life. All formsof literature whether short stories, drama or novels weave charactersor themes out of life forms or appeals as their mirrors (Widdowson17). In literature, an artist gathers artistic forms from actuallife thus, life acts as the subject matter in the different forms ofliterature. In his description of poetry, Plato regarded it as an“imitation of life” thus, literature connects to life in anintimate manner as it tries to voice the inner most longings andpolitest aspirations of the people.
Literature,tries to reflect life by voicing people’s desires and aspirationsas well as relating actual life in the desired form. In this regards,artists in most cases, develop themes through which they createcharacters and aesthetic forms. Widdowsondefines a theme as the subject of a discussion, topic, discourse,conformation, or consideration in a work of literature (23). In thisregards, it is the focus of an artist in creating a piece of work aswell as it acts as the unifying idea or motif developed throughout apiece of work. However, a theme can be more than one idea or motifand can create parallel ideas that pursue ideas of a conflict. Thechosen pieces of work manifest female identities and the constructionof gender roles as well as the definition of gender thus, the rolesof males and females in the past and today. The paper discusses thegender roles and provide a connection between gender roles asattested in the chosen works and actual life.
Therepresentation of males and females in literature is perhaps the mostsignificant idea that an artist can develop. The development of anycharacter starts with their gender manifestation and with thedevelopment of gender manifestation comes the description of genderroles. Most literatures discard the notion of gender typecasts, butin doing so, they have to create or explain different gender rolesfor the sex. In fact, Eagly defines gender roles as community’sshared beliefs or principles that apply to people based on theirsocially identified sex (650). As such, gender roles reveal theconnections among characters, people’s self-assertion, and theagentic nature of men as well as the communal nature of women.
Works of art
The chosen worksare Kincaid’s ‘Girl,’ Ibsen’s ‘A Doll House,’ andChopin’s ‘The Story of the Hour.’ At the time of writing thementioned texts or pieces of work, males were more agentic i.e.authoritarian, and domineering while women were more communal i.e.passive and subservient. However, the chosen pieces of work show howwomen arose to question their assigned roles and reacted to theconflict between sexes in a multiplicity of new ways such as revoltand withdrawal. The pieces of work oscillate between extremes ofdespair and enthusiasm and between nightmares of violent downfall anddreams of astounding victory.
In ‘The Story of the Hour,’ Chopin considers gender as nuancedas any commencement or start of the creation of actuality thus,Bauer proposes that Chopin is concerned with discovering the “dynamicrelationship between men and women, women and patriarchy, and womenand women’ (146). Kincaid’s Girl offers a glimpse of theconventional role of women i.e. domestic role unlike Chopin’s text,where women’s individual identity outside a man’s life ishighlighted. In Kincaid’s Girl, the focus on gender roles is thesexual conduct and the traditional hierarchy of men and females.Ibsen, in “A Doll House’ uses typecast gender attributes butreverses the typecasts in the final episodes of the play to show thatinner weaknesses and strengths are purposes of human beings ratherthan gender. In this regard, the paper constructs the manifestationof gender roles in “A Doll House,” “Girl,” and “The Storyof the Hour”
The narrativereveals the story of a mother’s effort to train her pubescentdaughter to learn suitable traditional customs and more imperative,the rules of social behavior particularly that of appropriate sexualconduct suitable for a well-nurtured girl. Martin asserts that thenarrative presents the feminine sensibility, which inquires in thefeminine roles especially by showing issues of female separation,initiation, and distancing (35). In addition, the daughter-motherrelationship is one that reveals strain especially in the mother’srole in effecting the traditional female gender roles ascircumscribed by patriarchy where men are dominant and authoritarianwhile women are submissive and dependent. In addition, the narrativeshows that a mother has complete command over her daughter and mustexert dominant and strict control. In this regards, women took theirtraditional roles i.e. domestic roles while men took leadership rolesand other roles that befitted traditional men roles. For example, themother tells her daughter, “This is how you iron your father’skhaki shirt so that it does not have a crease,” (Kincaid 489). Inthis regards, the narrative shows the existence of the patriarchysociety status that shaped people i.e. a strict command chain thatstarted with men and rolled down to mothers and then their daughters.
“Story ofthe Hour”
Chopinconstructs gender roles in two fronts feminine identity andpatriarchy society that denies women identity. As such, theconstruction of gender roles in the story takes suggest that theirmale counterparts treated women fairly, the loss of a husband camewith some freedom, and women re-evaluated their roles in the society. In this regards, Chopin creates Louise Mallard who after the deathof her husband realizes a new life and a self. Chopin shows Mallardas a typical wife of the Victorian times, feminine, fragile, anddependent, who changes into an independent, self-assured woman whenshe reasons her husband`s death unbinds her. In fact, Bauer assertsthat Chopin addresses Mallard’s awakening identity when she definesher as Louise in the end of the story rather than Mrs. Mallard, thetitle that defined her at the start of the story (148). In thisregards, Chopin reveals that Mallard realized freedom once she losther husband thus, the manifestation that women became moreindependent and active and took male-dominated roles as well asleadership roles. Chopin says, “Brently Mallard was likely atypical, kind husband for he had never looked save with love uponher,” (645). However, Mallard escape from the confinements ofmarriage allowed her to have a reawakened self-identity. Thisdescription shows that women struggled in marriages, men weredominant and oppressive while women were sensitive and susceptible,but they underwent a makeover from helpless and weak women toresilient and free women.
Ibsen’s ‘ADoll House’
Ibsen brings acomprehensive analysis of gender roles by revealing that weakness isfemale, strength is male, imagination is female, and logic is male.Baseer, Alvi, and Zafran suggest that Ibsen utilizes typecast genderattributes in his characterization of Torvald and Nora, and thenabruptly reverses the attributes in the dying moments of thenarrative (21). Ibsen centers on the domestic life of women and thesupposed lines between gender roles in the patriarchy society of theVictorian times. As a thought, the drama shows the unequal genderroles between females and males where men run businesses andcommanded households while women yielded to men’s relatives,nurtured children, and tended their homes. However, Ibsen’s use ofthree men and three females show that women can be resilient,independent, and strong and that weakness and strength do not shapegenders but demonstrate human traits. Torvald and Nora illustrate theconventional ideals of respective genders as defined during theperiod while others characters such as Dr. Rank, Annie-Marie, Mrs.Linde and Krogstad prefigure the final meaning of the drama byexhibiting personality traits outside the typecasts. In fact, Nora,the foremost woman in the play, exemplifies all the conventionalweaknesses of females i.e. mental and emotional instability, andtendency to be imaginative and fanciful as well as taking domesticroles. By portraying Nora as a weak, imaginative, and an unstablewoman trapped in the patriarchy community, Ibsen manages to show thetrue difference between female and males’ roles in the play infact, Torvald does not view Nora as an equal but rather a pet. In theopening paragraphs, Torvald asks of Nora, “Is that my Squirrelrummaging around?.. When did my squirrel get in?” (1106). Thisshows women’s dependency and submission to men in a patriarchysociety.
The chosenpieces of work connect to life at the times of their publicationgreatly. The works equate sex and gender with particular human traitssuch as weakness, logic, strength, and imagination. During theirpublication, the societies were mainly patriarchy thus, the authorstook upon themselves to reflect the happenings of actual life at theperiod. For example, “A Doll House” and “Girl” reveal thedomestic roles that women played as well as the submissive nature ofthe women to their men. On the other hand, the “Story of the Hour”shows how marriage galvanized women’s freedom and allowed men totreat them as unequal material possessions. In the three texts, womencome out as submissive, dependent, imaginative, and unstable whilemen come out as domineering and authoritarian, which connects well tothe patriarch societies at the time of the text’s publications. Thetexts were largely written in the Victorian era when gender rolesbecame more sharply divided, and separate spheres of the gendersbecame a phenomenon. The natural characteristics of men and women,allowed the society to construct roles in line with people’straits, and since women were considered weak and inferior to men,they took domestic roles while men took leadership and business rolesas the texts demonstrate. At the period of writing the texts, maleswere more agentic i.e. authoritarian, and overbearing while womenwere more communal i.e. passive and submissive. However, the textsalso show how women arose to question their assigned roles andreacted to the clash between sexes in a variety of new ways such asrevolt and withdrawal, perhaps, a clear description to show thechanging gender roles in real life.
Literature hasconstructed an intimate and significant relationship with life, asartists try to reflect actual life in pieces of writing. “The Storyof the Hour,” “A Doll House,” and a “Girl” demonstrate thegender roles of the patriarchy society and how women took uponthemselves to construct ways that would change the separate spheresthat societies had created. The society considered women as weak andunstable thus, assigned to them domestic roles while assigning tomen leadership and business roles. During the period, women submittedto men’s wills and did not try to question their men’s motives,but as time progressed, they reasoned that human traits did not haveanything to do with gender roles hence, they developed struggles tochange the separate spheres. As shown throughout the paper,literature has a positive and intimate connection with life as itimitate or reflects life’s happenings thus, the chosen worksexemplify the gender roles as developed in the patriarchy society.
Baseer, Abdul, Sofia Dildar Alvi, and Fareha Zafran. "The Use ofSymbolic Language in Ibsen`s A Doll`s House: A FeministicPerspective." Language in India 13.3 (2013).Print.
Bauer, Margaret.  Chopinin Her Times:  Critical Essays on Patriarchy and FeminineIdentity.  Durham:  Duke UP,1997. Print.
Chopin, Kate.  “The Story of an Hour.”  TheHeath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter, et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2.  Lexington:  Heath,1994.  644-46. Print.
Eagly, Alice. “The his and hers of prosocial behavior: Anexamination of the social psychology of gender. AmericanPsychologist, 64, 644-658. 2009. Print.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House. Literature: Approaches tofiction, poetry, and drama (2nd ed.), New York, NY:McGraw Hill. 1105-1153. 1897. Print.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. In At the Bottom of the River.Print.
Martin, Janelle. "Double Identity in JamaicaKincaid’s Lucy." Explorations(2013): 35. Print.
Widdowson, Henry George. Stylisticsand the teaching of literature.Routledge, 2014. Print.