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How Can Comparing and Contrasting The Themes and Language In Three Pre-1914 Short Stories Help Build A Portrayal Of Gender Relationships?

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Introduction

How Can Comparing and Contrasting The Themes and Language In Three Pre-1914 Short Stories Help Build A Portrayal Of Gender Relationships? World War One and World War Two did much to change the status and standing of women in society, but how were women perceived in pre-1914? By analysing three short stories from that period and the gender relationships within them, I hope to build up a portrayal of how females were regarded. The three short stories that I've chosen from the pre-1914 period are: "26 Men and a Girl" by Maxim Gorky; "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; and "The Woman's Rose" by Olive Schreiner. I've picked these three specifically because each of these stories portrays the relationship between males and females differently, differing from the woman being subtly in control of the males, to the husband completely dominating his wife's life. The first theme, which I shall be comparing between the three stories, is the way in which men treat and see the women. "26 Men and a Girl" already gives a subtle hint as to how women were seen from its title, by using the word "girl" and not "woman" it indicates that the males do not judge them to be equal, and are seen as inferior. At the time of writing (1899), the attitudes towards women were far from equal to men, even if the law stated they were. ...read more.

Middle

The supposed cure of resting and no work nearly drove her insane, and she felt that she was left to live "a crippled life". In this story the gender relationship is all about complete subjugation of the male over female, and one that leads to the ruin of the woman in the end. It shows that when women and their opinions not taken into account, you do far more than just suppress their voice, you suppress the person entirely. This story was shocking to the readers at the time, showing how such attitudes of "I know better than you..." could destroy people. Even in present times, it is widely received by readers who feel that they can feel parallels with women's lives today. "The Woman's Rose" by Olive Schreiner does not revolve centrally around men and women, but instead the relationship between two women in a village, both vying for male attention. In contrast to "26 Men and a Girl", the females in this story are not yet 18, but the author calls it "The Woman's Rose", which could by symbolic of all females and the unspoken sisterhood which binds them just because they're women. By naming it "The Woman's Rose" it doesn't speak for just those girls in the village, but for all women everywhere. In this story, all the men worship the women because they are the only ones, which is reminiscent of 26 Men and a Girl, who worshipped Tanya because she was the only one who paid attention to them. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the language between all three stories differ, and they change to reflect the gender relationship shown. In 26 Men and a Girl, the language is at first being mixed with a semantic field of praying and religion, to show that they worship Tanya. By the end it changes to replicate the almost bestial instincts the men have by jeering and encircling the girl. And with ever increasing violence we bombarded her with the filth and venom of our words. Tanya even replies to them as "You pigs....you brutes!" The second story uses much more subtle language, to show how the husband asserts his control over his wife and how she gradually gives into him. As already mentioned, the repeated phrase of "But John says..." shows her will begin to break down and erode throughout the story until she goes insane. And finally, The Woman's Rose uses language that is blunt and gets to the point to show the control the female has over the male, like "whip" and she describes the males as "curious creatures", to show that they're no more than pets she can control. Comparing the themes has also helped build a portrayal of gender relationships, by showing the contrasts and also the similarities, which seem to lead me to the belief that while women were widely regarded as the lesser and inferior sex, and were given less opportunities, they still wielded a great deal more power than first thought from a glance at the surface of the social context. Edward Tan English Coursework 1/10/07 ...read more.

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