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Whores and Housewives in From Here to Eternity

Good Essays
From Here to Eternity follows the story of numerous Army men and their exhilarating experiences during 1941. James Jones’s dense novel is filled with a spectrum of emotions from pure anger, violence, racism, suicide, happiness and depression that by the end of the novel the reader experiences an emotional roller coaster. The Army men in this novel are portrayed as strong, independent, and in charge. On the other hand, women in From Here to Eternity are seen as subordinate and treated like objects that can be bossed around by men. The women in this novel are living in a hierarchical male dominated society where they are seen as objects of desire for men. It appears there are only two options presented at the time for women in this novel; they can either be a prostitute or a housewife.

Alma Schmidt and Karen Holmes are two examples of the oppression that women face in From Here to Eternity, which places Alma as a whore and Karen as a housewife. Both women are controlled and live in a society were men are dominate. Alma and Karen struggle to find their individuality and identities through much of the novel and both women have negative self-images of themselves because they believe all of the destructive things they hear directed towards them. Majority of the characters in From Here to Eternity feel trapped and are discontent with their current lives. These individuals feel like they all have something better to discover and amount to in life. I believe the two individuals who are the most trapped and unhappy are Alma Schmidt and Karen Holmes.

Alma Schmidt is described as “nothing but a common whore” (Jones 235) by Prewitt and is later referred to as a “professional whore” (Jones 671) throughout much of the novel. These objectify...

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... this novel. It appears that economic and social classes do not matter in this novel if you are a woman; every woman still receives the stigma of being a whore. Even though Karen grew substantially and became independent, it is ironic that she found her independence through the relationship of Milt Warden, a powerful and influential man, who still dominates Karen. Overall, the women in From Here to Eternity face oppression by men, which results in a loss of self- esteem and individuality. Women had a limited range of opportunities during this time and were expected to become housewives. James Jones overall impression towards women appears to be negative and there are rarely any moments during the novel where the women are glorified or treated fairly.

Works Cited

Jones, James. From Here to Eternity: A Novel. New York: Dial Trade Paperbacks, 2012.

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