“The Chrysanthemums” is a well written short story that has for long time been used as a piece of literature for teaching purposes. Its author, Steinbeck, has been perceived as a frontier who advocates for gender equality. This feminist piece of writing has not been reviewed without great undermining from traditional interpretations made by various critics. Elisa, who happens to be the protagonist, is perceived as a woman who lets nothing to stand on her way, since she struggles to fight back the gender humiliations depicted by the manipulative and opportunistic tinker who forces her into something she has not been prepared for: she provided a job that she had at first retorted about. It is wise to note that this piece of work was written at a time when the U.S was recovering from the great depression and the first female made a cabinet minister was Frances Perkins: the first ever in the male-dominated community. This is perceived as a time when most fights initiated by women for the purpose of liberation ended up in great defeats (Hughes, 1989).
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As much as Elisa tries to remain revered towards the gender-insensitive society, her description proves that she has been looked down upon. The fact that she wears heavy gloves, heavy shoes and a big apron is a clear indication that she has been suppressed by the traditional role of feminists. At a different instance, Henry (her husband) reminds his wife the position of a woman in the society as he pumpers her with sweet masculine comments about her ability to nurture “the Chrysanthemums” and then immediately offers to take her for dinner. This move depicts the authority bestowed upon Henry by the society, perhaps because he is a man and men order women. When the tinker finally manages to manipulate Elisa, through her weakest link: the chrysanthemums, he goes ahead to portray a society that perceives women as objects rather than fellow human beings who deserve care and nurture. When the tinker discards flowers initially handed to him by Elisa, the protagonist weeps hard out of the fact that she feels she has been let down by the very society she has been embracing. As much as she tries to fight for the equality, she constantly faces discrimination let alone humiliation. Its worth noting that she is weeping as she is being taken for dinner by her husband: discrimination in itself. The flowers that had been discarded besides the road by the tinker clearly signify the protagonist’s final retreat to femininity which requires a woman to emulate her traditional role and live with it as it is expected by the society. A point worth to note is that Elisa has been used as a representative of the womanly model of equality and its foreseeable defeat.
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Just like Elisa, Louise the protagonist in “The Story of an Hour” is a woman who lives in a mansion with her dominating husband. She has a heart condition that is said to be kept delicate lest it kills her. The story unfolds with the news that Mr. Mallard, Louise’s husband, has died out of a fatal rail accident. This incident provokes mixed feelings and reactions that leave readers to fill-in with the suspense. At first we are made figure out the oppression she had been subjected to by her husband and when it’s reported that he had died she for once think by her. She weeps, once, and keeps still an indication that perhaps she had seen no need in weeping for her oppressive husband. She felt that she had finally gotten freedom to do whatever she missed while her husband was still alive. She utters the words “free” implying that at last she had managed to fight the discrimination. The news makes her calm and relaxed.
The author, at first, gives us a glimpse of Louise initial face that she was once young with a calm face, whose lines personalized domination and even the certain strength. However, then there was an element of dullness in her eyes whose look was affixed of regression and intelligent downtrodden by the very society she lived in. When she was upstairs in her room reminiscing about the life she is going to live without her husband makes her feel whole again. She persistently looked outside through the window which signifies a territory that is free from limitations and humiliations, a place where new beginnings is considered present everywhere as narrated in the story.
“The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Kennedy & Gioia, 2009).
When she thought that she had finally gotten the freedom she had been aspiring for, news comes in and refutes the claim that her husband was dead. This leaves her confused to the extent that she finally dies out of shock and disbelief. Her death is perceived as her final defeat in trying to fight inequality.
These two stories were written with clear intention of portraying the sufferings and humiliations that women were put through. Its clearly evident that both of these women were victims of oppression in marriages in the sense that they were only expected to act on decisions already arrived at by their very husbands and going against this phenomenon was considered rude and disrespectful (Kennedy & Gioia, 2009). Women of today continue facing these humiliations although in completely new forms that if not keenly observed someone may refute its presence. For instance, in the society today constitutions have been passed to allocate women more electoral positions, but their male counterparts have made sure that little or no slots are left for these women. In uncivilized societies of Africa and Asia, women are still being perceived as objects meant for sexual pleasure as well as “machines for giving birth”. Women continue facing these discriminations despite the conferences held for the purpose of enlightening and awakening the female species. A good example of such a conference is the one that was held in Beijing more than ten years ago. The fight is still on but it seems that women will never get to have their equal share of the society. Society will always diminish and remind them of their downtrodden position in the community.