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"What do the writers of the stories you have studied reveal about society's attitudes towards women's roles and relationships?" Focus on the depiction of the central characters in your answer.

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Introduction

"What do the writers of the stories you have studied reveal about society's attitudes towards women's roles and relationships?" Focus on the depiction of the central characters in your answer. Over the past 150 years women's rights and roles in society have changed considerably and with this, society's attitudes towards women. The depiction of women in the stories I have studied varies greatly and in this essay I will be discussing whether or not the portrayal of women and their rights matches women's history and attitudes towards them both then and today. The stories I have studied were all written between 1870 and today and include 'The Withered Arm' by Thomas Hardy, which although written in the 1870's was set in the 1830's, in a time when women had very few rights; they could not vote and it was extremely difficult for them to instigate divorce. This is reflected in the story as the two leading female characters have very limited freedom and are completely dominated by the male characters. 'The Story of an Hour', written in 1894 by Kate Chopin is more forward thinking than 'The Withered Arm'. It illustrates how women were still restricted and had much fewer rights than men even though at the time laws had been passed to allow women to vote in local elections and to have control over their own properties. ...read more.

Middle

This is a general pattern in Hardy's stories, stronger women live and prevail while weaker and less dependant women die, or suffer poor lives. The freedom and choices women have compared to men in the stories are also very different. In 'The Withered Arm' the central female characters, Rhoda and Gertrude, are incredibly restricted. Gertrude must ask her husband's permission before leaving the house, "to make the journey...required her husband's assistance. She dared not tell him... It was therefore necessary to wait for another opportunity", whereas he has total freedom, "the season was in summer...and in the leisure thus afforded him her husband had been holiday-taking away from home". Rhoda also has restricted freedom, as she has to look after Farmer Lodge's son on her own. Even her son, who is only a child, has more freedom than she has; he is allowed to go to church and out trapping rabbits while she stays inside. This is not at all like the freedom experienced by the teenage girl in 'Your Shoes'. Even at the age of 15 she makes all of her own decisions, choosing to run away from home, "drink alcohol at parties", "smoke pot" and have underage sex; although it is shown that in her mother's relationship, her husband has a lot of the authority. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, in my opinion Rhoda Brook is the strongest female character, as she is not dependent on anyone and lives her own life. Although the teenage girl in 'Your Shoes' has a lot of freedom, she is dependent on alcohol and cannabis and is also financially dependent on her parents. The modern teenage girl leaves us with questions such as, "How do you feed yourself out there on the street?" and "What do you have to do to get money for food?" whereas the supposedly more old fashioned character of Rhoda Brook lived a long and independent life. "Eventually she reappeared in her old parish, - absolutely refusing, however, to have anything to do with the provision made for her. Her monotonous milking at the diary was resumed, and followed for many long years." I feel that as time continues to progress women's portrayal will follow the pattern of past stories and correlate with their rights and freedom at the time. There will be no looking back at society's attitudes in the past, as any difference in rights for men and women is no longer permitted in this country. I would like to think that women will not be portrayed as anything other than what they are: men's equals. ...read more.

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