A Womans Role

A Womans Role

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A Womans Role

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, divine edict clearly relegates women to a position of subservience beneath men, as expressed in the Genesis creation account. This idea of female servility has dominated Western culture for thousands of years with virtually no significant changes; only in the past several decades has the notion of male dominance lost wide-spread acceptance in America. Prior to this cultural shift, American ideology mandated that women dutifully obey their husbands and confine themselves to managing the home and raising children, thus depriving them of any power beyond the sphere of the home and rendering them dependent on their husbands. This mentality is especially apparent in the movie, The Sound of Music.

In The Sound of Music, female characters are portrayed to be highly dependent upon men, a central aspect of the "traditional" woman's role. This is initially shown in the scene where Ralph and Liesl are singing and dancing in the gazebo. Liesl sings that she is "scared to face a world of men" and would like to depend on Ralph in order to alleviate her fear. Ralph acknowledges and accepts her submission, telling Liesl that since he is "older and wiser" he will take care of her. Liesl offers to submit herself to Ralph in accordance with her preconceived notion of male-female relationships, thus fulfilling her yearning of security in social normalcy. She is willing to become dependent upon Ralph and cross the threshold into traditional womanhood.

Although she may wear a mask of independence, Maria also fills the role of the traditional woman. Independence can be measured by the amount of control one has over her own life, and, if Maria's control over herself is analyzed, it is clear that she lacks independence. Initially, Maria appears to be independent when she ignores the Captain's prescriptions for stern child raising and defies his direct orders by making the children "play clothes". When Maria is reprimanded for her actions, she stands up to the Captain, criticizing the way he raises his children. Through these actions, Maria seems to deviate from stereotypical feminine behavior by challenging the Captain's authority, however, upon closer examination, such is not the case. The children are traditionally the woman's responsibility and are a matter over which she is supposed to have control.

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In standing up to the Captain, Maria is merely exercising the domestic influence granted to her under the cultural ideal of female subservience. Even this control is limited, as the Captain can overrule Maria's decisions at any time. The Captain, who has ultimate power over his household, silences Maria's attempt at insurgence by ordering her to return to the abbey.

The woman, Maria, does not have ultimate control of the children and lacks control over her own actions. Maria demonstrates pseudo-control over her own life when she decides to leave the abbey permanently. Though it seems she is making a great decision for herself and is demonstrating independence, she had only a very limited choice. Maria had to decide which of the accepted woman's roles she would take. The only two accepted lifestyles were that of a nun or a wife. Maria's choices were defined by men and therefore her control was in the hands of men, robbing her of true independence. All matters of true significance were controlled by men, defining the traditional stereotype.

When assuming the role of the children's mother, Maria matches the criterion of a traditional woman very well. Like the stereotypical mother, she nurtures the children, comforting them during a thunderstorm and protecting them from their father's anger after they placed a pine cone on her dinner seat as a practical joke. Maria plays games with the children, teaches them to sing, and helps them learn to be comfortable in nearly any situation, as a traditional mother should.

Maria also fills the role of a traditional wife. After she and the Captain establish an intimate relationship, she aids and serves him in any way possible. This subservience of a woman to a man is one of the fundamental principles of the traditional wife. When the family is fleeing Austria, she dutifully obeys the Captain. Maria never questions the Captain's convictions and helps him in escaping the Nazi troops. She completely trusts his decisions and places her life and the lives of the children in his hands.

The main women characters of The Sound of Music are illustrate the ideal of female servility in Western culture. The women are dutiful and submissive to the men surrounding them.
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