Female Characters and How They Overcome Stereotypes Term Paper

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female characters and how they overcome stereotypes in society. It contains three references.

Introduction stereotype is an oversimplified definition of a person or type of person, institution, style or event; to stereotype is to pigeonhole, to thrust into tight slots of definition which allow of little adjustment or change. Stereotyping is widespread because it is convenient - unions are like this, blacks are like this, Jews are like this, teenagers, women, Scots, foreigners are like this. Stereotyping is often - though not always - the result or accompaniment to prejudice. It serves the media well because they are in the business of instant recognition and ready cues. It is very rare that one actually knows any stereotypes: one only reads of them, hears of them or has them framed on TV. Stereotyping is not just limited to mass media but its reinforcement is most effective when it is transmitted by way of mass media. One common method of portraying stereotypes is through books where authors base their entire stories or characters on one isolated experience that leads them to generalize the entire community of a group of people.

To generalize is to be an idiot," said William Blake, an apt reminder to those that continue to highlight the commonly held beliefs about a society or a specific group of people. However there are some authors that have attempted to shatter such stereotypes and prominent among such figures are William Faulkner, Bharati Mukherjee and Kay Boyle. Their profound stories such as "A Rose for Emily," "Hindus" and "Astronomer's Wife" respectively have overcome the female stereotypes that their particular society has cast on them. Thus the following essay will attempt to analyze the female protagonists in the stories pointing out how they have managed to break free of the labels that their society had put on them.

Thesis Statement

This essay will explicate the ways in which the female protagonists of "A Rose for Emily," "Hindus" and "Astronomer's Wife" overcome the stereotypes that society cast on them and the effect it had on them.

William Faulkner

In "A Rose for Emily" William Faulkner tried to compare the past with the present, the former being represented by Emily, Colonel Sartoris and the old Negro servant Tobe along with the Board of Alderman that willingly accepted the Colonel's attitude towards Emily and her dues. The present was represented by the mysterious narrator and the new Board of Alderman (primarily Homer Barron). It was this new generation that considered Emily to be a "monument" of Southern gentility but they also felt that she had let herself go i.e. she was old and wasted and was of no use to the modern Southern society. It is interesting to note the similarity between Emily and her house. Both were slowly decaying and had too many ghosts in the closet. Of course she did not appear this way always.

A picture of Emily when she was young (in the story) showed that she was a frail creature very eager to contribute to the society at the time. It was after her father's death that a slow transformation began to overcome Emily - she became increasingly frail and there was a vague representation of the way she looked before the tragic death of her father. Her outward appearance was that serenity but inside she was slowly decaying. She had succumbed to the vagaries of life and the pressure was too much for her to bear. Emily was quite unlike the other women of her time - and perhaps even during her old age. Even though she was a little eccentric (she repeatedly claimed that she had no taxes in Jefferson), Emily refused to adapt to the changes that had occurred in the society.

According to some sources she was a strong, willful woman who after her father's death had completely retreated into her past. What's worth mentioning here is that she was happy being there i.e. In the past. Emily was clearly suffering from denial - she was unable to come to terms with her father's death and then Colonel Sartoris' passing away and so she continued to harbor the illusion that they were still there for her (especially Colonel Sartoris). She refused to let anyone threaten her imaginary world and so remained adamant about taxes when the new Board of Alderman approached her.

Emily never married because her father did not think that any man was good enough for her. In fact he would not let a grown woman of thirty make her own decisions and staunchly believed that it was not her place to act on her own behalf. Therefore when her father passed away she was dumbstruck and so kept his decaying body in the house. The law intervened and forced her to bury him but his portrait continued to hang in her living room thereby explaining that the man had a profound influence on Emily's life. Emily once lived in what was called a prestigious neighborhood of Jefferson. However with the passage of time that led to industrialization, the same neighborhood had turned into a run-down locale where her house was "an eyesore among eyesores."

As mentioned earlier, she continued to dwell in the past and thus her refusal to sell the house and move elsewhere was out of the question - there were perhaps too many memories associated with the house, something that she could not forego at any cost because her entire life was based on it. In this action one sees a frightened but a very strong woman that refused to give into the changing circumstances and fiercely clung onto what she believed was right. Such determination and resolution was unheard among the women of that time, both young and old and thus Emily seems to overcome the stereotyped representation of women in her time. It was perhaps the tremendous pain that had made her oblivious to change and so she stuck by what she believed in and this is what made her consistent and inflexible.

Finally Emily was different from the rest of the women of her time because she murdered the one man that had shown an interest in her and who was perhaps her only hope for change. This man was none other than the representative of the new Board of Alderman, Homer Barron and stood by Emily's side for a while. However Homer made it clear right from the beginning that he was not the marrying kind and so would not settle down in a monogamous relationship with anyone. Soon afterwards he left Emily for another woman thereby moving closer to his future, a change (for Emily was synonymous with the past that he wished to leave behind).

Emily could not tolerate this, perhaps more so because Homer was initiating a change (i.e. going towards the future) and so she poisoned him with arsenic. With that incident she never came out in public and finally passed away thus mostly living the life that she had wanted to in the first place, refusing to adapt to the changing circumstances.

Kay Boyle

The Astronomer's Wife" by Kay Boyle is a stark portrayal of an unhappy marriage. The story is not about physical abuse - au contraire Boyle talks about the mental anguish of the woman who is trapped in a vicious cycle where her husband subjects her to psychological abuse. The couple, i.e. Mr. And Mrs. Ames, continuously fight with the former having an upper hand in this battle of words. One would think that Mrs. Ames is a typical woman that continuously listens to her husband's emotional tirade and lets herself be manipulated by his connivance. True she indulges in such behavior at the beginning of the story but realizes what is missing in her life by way of the plumber that softens up to her.

The plumber is in fact an opportunity for her to forego the monotonous rituals of her life and experience something new and it is then when she catches a glimpse of the woman that she used to be. She realizes that she will not gain anything by being silently accepting the mental abuses that are being hurled across her way and so begins to take control of her life. She asks her servant to tell her husband that there is some serious trouble and goes into the earth. This is a big step for Mrs. Ames because she is finally doing what she thinks is right but also leaves behind some food for thought for her husband. Mr. Ames realizes that his relationship with his wife will never be the same because the scars of their abusive relationship will remain on her mind and will resurface from time to time.

He knows that he has no control over his wife now and must now endeavor to get back a woman that had essentially been hidden from the people. Mrs. Ames discovers herself from this brief social contact with the plumber and…

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