Gender Roles in Behind a Mask by Louisa May Alcott

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Gender Roles in Behind a Mask by Louisa May Alcott

Most people think of “traditional” gender roles such as those depicted in mid 1900 television sitcoms: The father going to work every morning and the mother staying home all day cooking dinner and cleaning the house. Gender roles are a set of social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social relationship. By 2050, women will make up 47 percent of the workforce in the United States which is up from 30 percent in 1950. Through the use of allusion, satire, connotation, and the central metaphor of performance, Louisa May Alcott is able to reinforce her message about nineteenth century gender roles in the novella Behind a Mask. The archetypal traits and behaviors of the Femme Fatale allow Louisa May Alcott to demonstrate nineteenth century gender roles, courtship, marriage, and social rank.
Archetypal traits demonstrated in this novella consist of mysterious and seductive, misleading, needing rescue, and a heart breaker. Through the use of satire, Louisa May Alcott creates the character Jean Muir into a Femme Fatale. By doing so, Alcott hopes to shine light on the fact that for centuries, women have been criticized, controlled, and taken advantage of by men. Women must prove that they are as fit to undertake tasks that a man would typically undertake. Women are forced to become manipulative and controlling. This jeopardizes the integrity of marriage and undermines the honesty of women.
The mysterious and seductive archetypal trait of the Femme Fatale is illustrated through the character Jean Muir who chooses to fool men into loving her rather than working hard to prove herself to men to get what she wants, such as money a...

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...le. This is Alcott’s warning to the world of what happens when women have no power and are not given the opportunity and ability to provide for themselves. Women were supposed to be dependent of men, “stay-at-home” mothers, and almost like servant’s to men. Alcott’s purpose within this novella is to show stereotypes of women working against men. She wants people to know that women are not born to be passive and men are not born to be active or ambitious. These gender roles have changed over time. Alcott wants people to know that when a woman cannot get ahead by any means other than marriage, they have no other option but to trick and fool men. Through this novella, Alcott is able to communicate the need for a change in stereotypes of gender roles and show the inevitable: women manipulating and tricking men when they cannot get or are not obtain to get what they want.
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