When one speaks of women’s issues, the general reaction is that of frustration. It seems that the 21st century general society is already tired of hearing about the issues that women face even when approximately half the world’s population is female (UNPD, 2002). In Indu Sundaresan’s The Twentieth Wife, the topic pervasive of gender inequality is explored through Mehrunnisa’s life experiences. Mehrunnisa’s story gives insight into the situation and social status of women in 16th century India. Female children are trained to be good housewives from a young age. Women in general are restricted in their educational freedoms to reduce the validity of their opinions. A woman can only achieve the freedom to make her own decisions when she fulfills the duties expected of a woman. Ultimately, The Twentieth Wife shows that women are oppressed and given less importance to force them to be shaped into that which is expected by society but Mehrunnisa is able to overcome these boundaries by increasing her education.
Mehrunnisa is taught how to be a housewife from a young age with the expectation that marriage is the only way she can obtain power. When faced with the opportunity for her children to learn from a Hindu priest, Asmat, Mehrunnisa’s mother, began to worry that “[teaching] the girls too much [will cause them to] want of the outside world” (48). Although Asmat has good intentions, her wish to reduce Mehrunnisa and her sisters’ knowledge in order to reduce their desire ultimately results in the opposite as it causes Mehrunnisa to crave authority over others and additional knowledge. Mehrunnisa knows firsthand that her marriage dictates her power and luxuries for the rest of her life. “She was…married to a common soldier...
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...s the path to freedom and therefore yearns for the power and freedom that comes with knowledge since women are deprived of education to mold them into model wives. A woman’s power comes from her marriage and she is taught that this should be her main desire from a young age. She is also taught that a woman’s opinion is not credible because they typically do not receive the same level of education as males. Lastly, Mehrunnisa learns that she can only be free once she has fulfills the duties expected of women such as marriage and childbirth. By using her resources to gain knowledge she would have otherwise not have learned, Mehrunnisa frees herself from the stereotypes of the society she lives in. As said by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Educational Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai, “I will get my education - if it is in home, school, or anyplace”(Xplore Inc. ,2014).
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