Donald Barthelme’s Snow White

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In Donald Barthelme’s novel Snow White, the main character Snow White contradicts the traits of a stereotypical 1960’s housewife. These traits, given to her by the author, differ from a typical 1960s housewife in appearance, demeanor, and priorities. The purpose of Barthelme’s presentation of Snow White in this manner is to expose the limitations of society’s gender roles rampant in the 1960s. In Barthelme’s novel Snow White, the protagonist, Snow White, is a 22 year old woman living with seven men. These men do not perceive her as a person with emotions, but rather as a sexual object to be used whenever they want and a housewife to tend to their every need. Snow White has unsatisfying sex in the shower with these seven men and also tends to their other physical needs. She is also expected to clean the house from top to bottom. “Snow White was cleaning. Book lice do not bite people, she said to herself. She sprayed the books with a five percent solution of DDT. Then she dusted them with the dusting brush of the vacuum cleaner. She did not band the books together, for that injures the bindings. Then she mended some torn pages using the strips cut from rice paper” (Barthelme 43). Snow White is well educated in women’s studies, as well as, the basic elements of becoming a housewife, however, her longing for something better causes her to look and behave like anything but. The first way Snow White differs from the stereotypical 1960s housewife is by her appearance. The appearance of a 1960s housewife was very important. She was expected to dress in a particular fashion that “consisted of, touched up make up and a ribbon in their hair to look fresh” (The Good Wife’s Guide,1). Barthelme demonstrates this throughout the ... ... middle of paper ... ...isfied and complained about her situation instead of exuding a pleasing and pleasant attitude. She was opinionated and stood up for herself instead of being the submissive and blindly following her men. By noting these contradictions to the expectations of the 1960s housewife, Barthelme successfully exposed the limitations of gender roles throughout the novel. Snow White is used as a demonstration of gender roles in a post modernistic work. Works Cited Barthelme, Donald. Snow White. New York: Atheneum, 1967. Print. "The Good Wife's Guide." Good Housekeeping 13 May 1955: n. pag. Print. Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: Norton, 1983. Print. ---. It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement. New York: Random House, 1976. Print. ---. The Second Stage. New York: Summit, 1981. Print.
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