Women And Ideal Characteristics Of Femininity

1233 WordsMay 16, 20175 Pages
According to The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, “There was much debate concerning the proper place of women and the ideal characteristics of femininity throughout the nineteenth century.” The Victorian Era officially followed the reign of Queen Victoria in England from 1837 to 1901, but the era is not so rigidly set. The ideologies, values, and mores associated with the Victorian era were present before Queen Victoria, and then followed into America and also lived sixty years past its recorded date of death. In the 1950s and 60s, the idea of femininity was still being explored, just as it was a century prior in another country. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, written in 1963, provides a name for the woman’s condition…show more content…
The society in which Friedan describes and the thoughts of Allen parallel each other: to be feminine is to mother children and to marry a man. Deviating from this neatly structured plan for a woman’s obligation is to become unfeminine. Esther Greenwood is a woman of the 1950s who goes against the belief that women should marry; in fact, she declares, “I’m never going to get married” (Plath 93) while being proposed to by Buddy Willard. In the Victorian Era, it was largely men who grappled with the questioning and answering of the desires and needs of women, and in the 1960s, the patriarchal society determined the woman’s role. In her novel, Plath specifically points out the flaw in the system: men are not women, so they cannot accurately govern their needs or wants. After Esther’s rejection of Buddy, he claims, “You’re crazy. You’ll change your mind” (93). In another scene, Esther recalls, “I also remember Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I wouldn’t want to write anymore” (85). Buddy’s predictions about Esther’s future align with the “correct” attitudes for women of the time. Moreover, his decidedly “knowing” her needs and wants is indicative of his inner feeling of superiority over her: because he is of the dominant sex, his telling Esther how to feel is justified. In setting up men to be the dominant sex, men become the
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