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Jan Muir and Roleplaying

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ROLE-PLAYING Jean Muir is a player of roles, she is an actress by profession and plays her roles well. Moreover she is fully aware of the need to play roles and distinguishes clearly between role-playing and her true self. In her letters to Hortense revealed in the last chapter describes this well: 'I had the audacity to say I was nineteen, to talk scotch..' But in the opening chapter we are immediately alerted to the fact that this is a mask and not her true identity: 'my glass showed me an old woman of thirty, for my false locks were off, my paint gone, and my face was without its mask' She plays different roleswith different people - choosing the most appropriate and effective: With Sir John, ' afew artless compliments to himself, and he was charmed' With Edward ' I risked my neck to pet his beast and he was charmed' With Bella: ' I made a posy and was sentimental and she was charmed!' With Lucia 'The fair icicle loves her departed mamma, I had raptures over an old picture and she thawed' With Gerald'Monsieur is used to being worshipped. I took no notice of him and by the natural pervisity of human nature he began to notice me.' The mask is an important metaphor. Society demands that women put on public masks and act according to set norms offemalebehaviour, restricting true identity and inposing upon its women social, cultural, and economic limitations. ...read more.


Jean Muir is allowed to break through class barriers to a financially secure future - through marriage to Sir John and as Lady Coventry - albeit through sheer strength of character, determination (as she had failed previously) and deceit. Jean Muir works on two levels; she exploits tradtional feminine behaviour in public, but at the same time her behaviour is very unfeminine in that she is active and in control. She does not merely await her future as does Lucille. Alcott sets her story in a domestic setting , contrasting the domestic setting against Muir's unfeminine behaviour Marriage as a trade: Jean Muir recognises this and works with the system to get a fair trade: 'the other may be better, and I will have the best' Behind A Mask or The Power of A Woman is subversive of patriachal culture and it is anti-romantic. It portrays the power women can take for themeselves by turning the tables on society's gendered rules. By over-playing and manipulating feminine stereotypes it reveals the artificiality and the restrictive practices of society towards its female members. GENERAL Alcott was a strong advocate of women's rights and her stories are political in that they serve to highlight feminine concerns. The relationship between the tittle and subtitle is significant. It is the power to beat the system at its own game through acting and role play. A woman cannot be herself in society. Mask: The need for masks (make-up, costumes) is imposed by society, as it asigns gender expectations and restrictions: age, beauty, social class. ...read more.


But in order to also captivate her audience Jean faints. Thus surrounding herself with an air of mystery that is not boring and attracts the attention and sympathy of all. Throught her stay Jean manipulates the emotions of its inhabitants both men and women through their expectation of what a poor governess should be. She is especially careful with the men in the household and portrays herself as demure, beautiful yet uniterested in marriage and the financial security that would provide. Having caight a hint of each character she tries 'her power over them' During the times they believe Jean to be unaware of their scrutiny is when she ironically plays the more public roles. Ie: when Sir John sees her throw her arms across the table and breaks out ia a 'passion of tears' - he is quite unconscious that a scne is being inacted and that he is being manipulated. Jean's role here is that of the fragile damsel in distress and Sir John repsonds later by rescuing her. She appeals to his vanity by allowing him to believe that as an older man he can stillplay the role of the white knight and is considered more attarctive than her other youg suitors. But Jean Muir is not what she appears to be . She is a 'haggard, worn, and moody woman of thirty at least' . This is no innocent young governess. Alcott illustrates that in a patrichal world where women in relation to men have no status and is powerless - she must capitalize on any asset that she does posess. They must be adept at playing the different roles expected of them, be it bride, mother,... ...read more.

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