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How do the writers Thomas Hardy and Alice Walker use their protagonist's Roselily and Phyllis to explore the conflict between social convention and personal desires?

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Introduction

How do the writers Thomas Hardy and Alice Walker use their protagonist's Roselily and Phyllis to explore the conflict between social convention and personal desires? In the Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion, Thomas Hardy chooses to explore the conflict between social convention and personal desires by creating a situation in which his central character, Phyllis, has to choose whether or not to follow her personal desires under the theme of love. Like in Roselily by Alice Walker, the same situation is explored again through love. However the way in which the two different writers choose to explore this theme is somewhat different. Both of the writers are renound for their individual feelings and sensitivity towards the position of women in society, and I feel that this is one of the main reasons for the two writers choosing their protagonist characters to be women and also for them choosing a subject, such as love, which especially women, in the past have found to be very troubling and emotional. The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion is a story of a young woman named Phyllis. Her life, which up until now has been somewhat alone and isolated from not only society but her family also, is interrupted by the marriage, arranged by her father, to Humphrey Gould. This Phyllis is not too keen on but due to the fact that Phyllis gives total respect to her father, as any girl would have done back in the eighteenth century, when the story was written, she decides to go along with the marriage. ...read more.

Middle

I would consider the ceremony something society nowadays would see as social convention. As Roselily is a contempory piece of writing we, as readers find it easy to relate to issues raised in the text as they apply to conventions and personal desires of people of today's world. It is much harder, however to relate to issues and standards that were expected of people in the time that The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion was set, as things change. They move on and it is clear through the two piece of writing that conventions and the expectations from society today compared with the society of the eighteen hundreds are different. Another theme that is explored in the two texts in isolation and alienation. Both women are isolated from society. In both texts there are no references to motherly figures, which I feel adds to the fact that the two women are isolated also from sex. Words such as "silently" and "alone" which are common in both texts suggest such ideas. Both women are also stepping into alien culture by following either their personal desires or social convention; both worlds are ones that are un experienced by both protagonist characters. Culture and surrounding environment is another theme that is dwelled upon by the writers. Roselily is very much focused on culture and religion more so than The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion, but home and way of life is mentioned quite frequently in both texts. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Melancholy Hussar of The German Legion begins in 1st person and then moves on to 3rd person removed whereas Roselily is written in 3rd person removed throughout. I feel in Roselily this has some symbolism, the fact that she in herself doesn't really want to be at the marriage ceremony by writing in 3rd person removed, she is allowing herself in effect to be removed from the ceremony herself. The actual realism of this is bought back through the wedding vows read aloud by the preacher. In conclusion, it is clear that both women in both texts are oppressed and dominated by their higher male figures - In The Melancholy Hussar of The German Legion it is her father, which dominates, and in Roselily it is her future husband. Both women end up doing what they believe to be for the best although they both express doubt is doing so, and also both women went against the convention of the society they are surrounded by. The texts have got their similarities and differences but both are extremely effective in conveying the conflict between social convention and personal desires and the problems people have to overcome when deciding which to follow. I think the piece, which appealed to me most, was Roselily; this is because it is contemporary so I found it easier to relate to the moral values of people and the issues of the story and how they were raised. Also the informality of it appealed to me more than Hardy's traditional formal style of writing. ...read more.

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