Women Breaking Free From Their Traditional Expectations

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Women Breaking Free From Their Traditional Expectations

All throughout the early part of history women were portrayed as the inferior sex, because at that point in time, women were seen as beings only born to have children. Men didn’t think that women were capable of being anything other than a typical housewife. It was unthinkable that women would actually need an education, let alone earn a living, or become a leader. These ideas are revealed all throughout classical literature. Rarely was a woman seen as doing anything but being dominated by males in some form, whether she was a man’s submissive devoted wife, a sexual object, or a woman being punished for wanting her freedom. We finally begin to see women trying to break free from these traditional expectations and barriers through the lives of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, John’s wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Louise Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, and Songlian in Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong.

Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God shows how the lives of American women changed in the early 20th century. Janie Crawford is an example of a woman in society who follows her dreams, takes control of her soul, and finds her own identity in a male dominated world. After two marriages in which Janie is ‘owned’ by the men in the relationship, she finds that she can own herself. “Janie was an unusual protagonist for her time—black, female, independent, and strong” (Shafer).

Janie’s first effort to free her soul is from her husband Logan Killicks. Logan works her like a mule, making her do house chores as well as outside work. When she finally realizes that she doesn’t want to spend her life as a slave or with someone that she doesn’t love, Janie runs away to be with a man she had met only a few days before. Janie faces reality and gets out from under Logan’s rule before she becomes consumed into his world.

Again Janie is only a possession of her new husband, Joe Starks. He displays her like a medal around his neck. He is so jealous of other men lusting after his wife that he restricts her to always tend the store, leave fun situations, and wear a head rag to hide her beautiful hair. Janie slowly breaks out of the shell that Starks has molded her into when she verbally defies him in front ...

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...oper place was in the home. Even the laws and literary writings reflected this position. As women became more educated, they began to seek their freedom and a voice in society. This movement to gain equal rights for women has been referred to as feminism. Slowly have we made our way in history, but profoundly do we take our stand in life.

Works Cited

Aull, Felice “The Yellow Wallpaper” The Feminist Press at the City Univ. of New York

(New York) 1892 7 July 2000 http://mcip00.nyu.edu./lit-med/lit-med-db/webdocs/webdescrips/gilman87-des-.html

Gribben, Alan. “Chopin, Kate” The World book Encyclopedia. 1990 ed.

Maloney, Karen E. “A Feminist Looks at Education: The Educational Philosophy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” Teachers College Record vol. 99. Spring98: 514

Roberts, Edgar V. Fiction/An Introduction to Reading and Writing. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1987. 599 & 306

Shafer, Audrey. “Their Eyes Where Watching God” Harper & Row (New York) 1937 7 July 2000


Stolle, James. “A Cruel Tale From China—But What A Climax!” Albert Report/Newsmagazine,

6/21/93: 44
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