Gender Roles in Elisa Allen’s Chrysanthemum Garden

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Throughout history, equality among genders has been uncommon. Essentially, “roles filled by the two sexes do not bring the same power and privilege” (Marini 105). This aspect of gender suppression is present in American society even as this passage is read, but feminine oppression was widely prevalent during the early 1900s (Marini 107). Thus, this overarching theme of female subjugation and gender roles spurred exploration of equality and the feminist movement—of which sociologist Mirra Komarovsky was a prominent and influential thinker. She studied fifty-nine families between 1935 and 1936 and annotated the dynamic of Depression-era marriage by exploring the identities of husbands suffering unemployment for at least one year. With the help of her associate Michael Kimmel, Komarovsky reveals the common masculine identity of provider and accompanying feminine role of obedient homemaker that overwhelmed the Depression era; however, it is noted that some participants developed alternative working identities of husband and father. Yet, the sum of their family dynamic observances is stated as follows: “In the traditional patriarchal view of the family, the husband is expected to support and protect the wife, and she, in turn, to take care of his household, to honor and obey him.” (Komarovsky, Kimmel; 2). The constricted role of women during this epoch undoubtedly left women feeling hampered and dissatisfied with their limited freedoms, allowing the emerging ideas of feminism to shape the philosophy and material culture of America.
Amidst this power struggle of the sexes, author John Steinbeck was hurriedly carving out his niche in the stone that is American literature. While drafting feasibly his most praised piece of literature, “The...

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