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"The Hand" that Robbed the Cradle

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Caitlin Hargrove Professor Sterr English 2 4 October 2004 "The Hand" that Robbed the Cradle Colette's "The Hand" was written during the 1920's in Paris, a time of personal and sexual liberation for many women. Unlike the more daring and outrageous people of the French art scene, Colette's protagonist is a young woman who dreams of love, marriage, and happiness in a more traditional and fairytale-like sense. The young wife is overjoyed by her new life with Prince Charming, but is too interested in what she will gain from her marriage instead of contemplating what marriage really entails. In one night, the protagonist shifts from happiness to disgust upon learning of her husband's flaws. In doing so, she must question her commitment to her marriage and her true feelings for her husband. The realization of the severity of her new role as a wife overcomes her, and she places her future in jeopardy by deciding whether she is able to tolerate a flawed human being. ...read more.


She is appalled that she let his claw-like fist touched her during their "scandalous existence [as] a honeymoon couple," and is horrified that she has even once kissed the hand. A bloom can fall from a rose so quickly, and the young wife's juvenile and hasty reaction only reveals how immature and fickle she is. While lying in bed with her husband and the apelike hand, the protagonist begins to question his honor and integrity because of his beastly appendages. Although the man may come from some money, he obviously has no sense of decency as their "conjugal romance fell little short of abduction" and he is able to take a child swiftly away from her family a short time after his wife's death. The circumstances surrounding his previous wife's fatality are also questioned because of the hand, as he is seen as having [pleasure as a strangler] while clawing at sheets in his sleep. The young woman was obviously infatuated with her suitor, but was not in love with him as she is able to conjure up horrible thoughts about her bed mate. ...read more.


The transformation of her ideological husband revolts her, yet she is weak and is truly overpowered by the restraints society puts on her to stay with her husband. She realizes that her life will become one of duplicity, as she will forever live a life she no longer wants, but must act as if she does. The young wife once defined herself by her new husband and the happiness he brought her. As she no longer wants to be associated with such a hand or husband, she is therefore left without an identity as she no longer wants to be distinguished by. Ultimately, she performs as a good wife should and kisses the hand, putting her own feelings aside for the expectations of society. She is now obedient, but in this soul-wrenching realization, she has matured. To be capricious is a luxury of youth, which the protagonist has forfeited through marriage. By accepting her decisions and leaving her world of whimsy, the young woman is able to take on her role as an obedient wife in a patriarchal society, and serve her husband while enslaving herself to him. Hargrove 1 ...read more.

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