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A Patriarchic Society in Aphra Behn's The Rover

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A Patriarchic Society in Aphra Behn's The Rover

In her play The Rover, Aphra Behn uses the treatment of women to suggest the presence of a strong patriarchic society and what harm can become of it. The main female character Florinda is manipulated, used, and treated horribly by men in instances of near-rape, battering and beating, and foul language among other things. Behn also uses Willmore, one of the main male characters, and his attitude towards women to prove her point. By doing this, Behn is suggesting patriarchy is dangerous for women, and their lack of fighting against it presupposes what can happen to women over time if this strong patriarchic society is allowed to flourish.

In act three, Florinda is almost raped by a drunken Willmore. He doesn’t know who she is, he thinks she’s just, “A female! By this light, a woman! I’m a dog if it be not a very wench” (III.v.16 –17). This shows that he only sees her as a sex object. He then tries to take advantage of her. As she puts up a struggle, he says, “Come, come, take it or I’ll put it up again…Why, how now, mistress, are you so high i’th’ mouth a pistole won’t down with you? ...Come, no struggling to be gone…I’m for ye” (III.v.67 – 72), trying to force her into submission. In another instance in act four, the same thing nearly happens again to Florinda when she ventures into Blunt’s house. Blunt has been tricked by another woman and decides to take his revenge out on that woman by sleeping with Florinda. He gets very physical with her and Florinda protests with, “Dare you be so cruel?” (IV.v.51). Blunt replies with this heartless speech: “Cruel? ...as a galley slave, or a Spanish whore…I will kiss and beat thee all over, kiss and see thee all over; ...

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...the patriarchic society, Florinda’s father and brother won’t allow them to be married. She was treated as a prize awarded to the most eligible candidate. Here, Behn is showing how damaging the patriarchic tradition of arranged marriages can be to those involved. Even though they ended up together, they had to fight a battle to do so. By ending the play this way, Behn is saying people who love each other shouldn’t have to fight to be together, thereby proving this patriarchic practice unfair.

By placing an emphasis on the man who uses women as sex objects by titling her play after him; by having almost all the female characters in the play treated horribly, used, and manipulated; and having the female characters barely putting up a fight, Aphra Behn suggests the heavily patriarchic society that exists is too extensive and is dangerous for the women in it.
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