Essay On Family Roles In The 1950s Family

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Family Roles and Gender Inequality of the 1950s Imagine life as a woman in the 1950s: struggling with the idea that men are superior to women, and stuck in a life filled with empty opportunities. Esther Greenwood, protagonist from the novel The Bell Jar, contemplated this problem as she began learning the typical customs expected of women during the 1950s. Pressured by both her mother and society to accept a future devoid of genuine happiness and adventure, Esther lost control of her own life and spiraled downward into a continuous cycle of denial and depression. During the 1950s, a typical family consisted of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and respectful children, all living together in a safe, suburban neighborhood. Author Sylvia…show more content…
Each member of the family was expected to fulfill certain roles, and to execute their obligations appropriately. When men came back from World War Two, they were forced to jump back into a normal lifestyle: working and raising a family. The father was the sole provider of the family, as he controlled the finances by working a steady job. After each day of work, the father would come home and find his role change from an intelligent businessman to a loving and caring husband. While the father was at work for the day, the mother was at home cooking, cleaning, and tending to the children. A small number of women worked part-time jobs with flexible hours, while still meeting the demands of daily housework, but rarely took the burden of working a full-time job. The mother’s main duty was to care for the children and provide for them. The children were raised to act in a respectful manner, with minimal behavioral issues. When asked by an adult to complete a certain chore, objecting was not an option; as punishment was common. According to John Rosemond from the Hartford Courant, “Your mom and dad paid more attention to one another than they paid to you.” He also commented, “They bought you very little, so you appreciated everything you had. And you took care of it” (Author John Rosemond, “Raising Kids In 1950s Households Vs. Today’s”). Children looked up…show more content…
Women in the 1950s were typically stay-at-home moms with the task of cooking, cleaning, and tending to the children. Men were the sole providers of the family, and held superiority and masculinity over the women. Men were portrayed as more intelligent and rational than women, forcing a society that viewed women as subordinate. These rigid gender roles are what caused Esther Greenwood to challenge her expectations, thus causing her mental breakdown. To cope with her own thoughts and fears, Esther sought to find liberation by freeing herself from her oppressor: her mother. Mrs. Greenwood constantly pressured Esther into pursuing shorthand so that she would “have a practical skill as well as a college degree” (Author Sylvia Plath 40). Esther interpreted her mother’s comment as obtaining no other significance than submission to men. This amplifies Esther’s resentment towards her mother, and is a factor that contributes to her insanity. Along with challenging the strict gender roles of the 1950s, Esther was worried that she would never find a man to marry. She could not understand how to handle a relationship with a man, and felt pressured by society to start thinking of a future with a husband. Esther could not accept that kind of commitment in her life, and began to detach herself from relationships until she was solely dependent on
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