Comparing Women in The Bell Jar and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

Comparing Women in The Bell Jar and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

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Exploitation of Women Exposed in The Bell Jar and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

 
    In their manifesto, the Redstockings argued that the relationship between men and women was a class relationship, and that the men repressed and controlled the women. The women were objects, and the men owned them. They said that, as a class, women "are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor" by the male class(Bloom, Takin' it to the Streets, 486). Many of the women characters in The Bell Jar and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute give us examples of this repression and exploitation.

 

In both The Bell Jar and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, we often see women as being subordinate to men. For example, in "Debts", one of Grace Paley's characters is happy because she has found "a husband to serve"(Paley, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, 11). Her life has no meaning apart from her role as wife. She is defined by her husband. The idea that women are defined by their husband is so pervasive that we even find it in the language of the stories. In "The Burdened Man" there is a newspaper article describing the shooting of a wife and her lover by her husband. The husband and the lover are called by name, Sgt. Armand Kielly and Alfred Ciaro, respectively. The wife is only referred to as Mrs. Kielly. In The Bell Jar, when Buddy Willard proposes to Esther, he asks her "How would you like to be Mrs. Buddy Willard?"(Plath, The Bell Jar, 75). In both these instances, the language used defines the women in terms of their husband. This casual indication of dominance says a great deal about the culture.

 

The exploitation of women as sex objects is also easy to find. Both works contain extreme i...


... middle of paper ...


...(Bloom, 486). As a class, men exploit them for personal use, both economically and sexually. They do everything they can to keep women in an inferior position. This repression is so pervasive that it is even found in the language of the women themselves. Correcting this problem is not a matter of changing individual relationships within the society. As the manifesto says, "the conflicts between individual men and women are political conflicts that can only be solved collectively"(486). In order for things to improve, there must be some change in society at a base level.

 

Works Cited

Bloom, Alexander and Wini Breines, eds. Takin' it to the Streets. Oxford University Press, New York, 1995.

Paley, Grace. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1974.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Harper and Row, New York, 1971.

 

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