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Essay about Women in American Literature

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Of the many themes in American Literature of the semester, the one that deserves to be looked at more closely is the view and treatment of women. While there are a few works, Fleur being the one that stands out the most, where women were more than just a pretty face and actually did things for themselves and succeeded, more often women were oppressed, demoralized, or exploited by men. In three works in particular this tendency to present women as weak and in need of protection is exceedingly noticeable. These three works are “Daisy Miller: A Study,” Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, and A Streetcar Named Desire. In all of these works the female lead characters are trying to find a better life for themselves and in the end they end up failing and losing their lives or at least the lives they would have had if they had simply done as they were expected to. It makes sense, given that the writers of these three works were all males, but this treatment of women wasn’t just in works by males, in Flannery O’Connor’s works, for example, the female character was still exploited by men. But why were women so often treated this way in literature? The suggestion that women are naturally the weaker sex has long been common thought in society and perhaps these male writers try to put women in their “proper place” by writing works that show women outside of their place getting into trouble and losing everything.

In the first of the works mentioned above, “Daisy Miller: A Study” by Henry James, the title character meets Mr. Winterborne who proceeds to promise to take her to the Château de Chillon. And over the course of the story the pair meet again in Rome. Winterborne’s aunt, Mrs. Costello, does not think well of Daisy or of Winterborne’s cont...


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...n so often exploited by men in literature, even in the more modern of the three aforementioned works? The simple answer would, of course, be that the works were written by men who desired to put women in their “proper” place and suggest that women are incapable of making decisions on their own and should do as they are advised to by men.

On the other hand, there were many works in the anthologies which depicted men’s failures and so these three could just be major works in which the women happened to be the ones that were ruined. Although if that were the case it would have made sense for Winterborne, Pete, and Stanley to suffer some sort of ill consequences to balance things out. As there never was any such unfortunate outcome for the male characters it stands to reason that the simple conclusion of “to put women in their place” may very well be the answer.




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