The female characters in Molière’s Tartuffe display feminist behaviors years before the feminist movement emerged historically. Many of their actions, words and behaviors are completely out of character for women of their time. Moliere makes a strong statement with this play by presenting female characters that go against convention. The gender inequality when the Enlightenment began was extreme. The women in this play try to fight against this inequality and in the end it is the patriarch of the family that is fooled by Tartuffe yet most of the female characters remain un-fooled throughout the play. Two of the female characters in this play, Doreen and Elmire play significantly different roles in the home. They have different personalities, different household duties and drastically different social standing. As different as these women are, they both show signs of early feminism. To various degrees they fight for want they believe is right. Dorine speaks her mind openly and does not hold anything back. Elmire is sneakier and uses her sexuality to get what she wants.
Elmire understands that she is a woman and that men see her as a sexual object. She actually uses this to her favor. She uses Tartuffe’s affection for her against him. She makes him look like a fool after she seduces him. This woman understands that gender roles for men and women are very different and that she can use men to get her way. This gives Elmire a type of freedom. Elmire is an independent woman that knows how to get what she wants. In the play Elmire wants Tartuffe out of her husband’s house. She does not understand why everyone likes him so much. Elmire has an idea; she decides she will seduce Tartuffe. When...
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...ters. Yet, this is not all that she does. She also refuses to listen to the opinion of the men of the house. She is a very strong woman and argues with them to make sure her opinion is heard. She may play a fool, but she also plays a fool that is opinionated and is not afraid to argue with the men. This is not something that was common in the 17th century. During this time, men were believed to know all. Women were meant to listen and follow. Marianne plays the subservient daughter. She is willing to marry a man that she does not want to marry simply because her father demands it. Yet, she plots with her maid Dorine to help her get out of the situation. This is something that does not follow gender norms. A good daughter of the time would listen to her father religiously. Every woman in this play defies gender norms, even if some of they do it in a very minor way.
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