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Women’s Rights Within Literature

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Women’s Rights Within Literature

Women have been known as the less dominant sex. Throughout history women have fought for their freedom and equal rights. Only recently with a push of the Equal Rights Amendment have women been able to hold a place of respect alongside men. Before, they had been stereotyped as being housewives, and the caretakers of the children. Many characters in works in literature are conceived from tension the women have faced with men. This is tension that has been derived from society; men, and within a woman herself. “The Story of an Hour”, “A Doll’s House”, and The Last Duchess, focus on a woman’s plight near the turn of the century. During this time, it was especially interesting because it was a time in the modern society when women were treated as second class citizens. The main female characters in these pieces of literature show a lot of similarities, but are also different in the ways they deal with life in general.

All their lives; Nora, Louise, and the Duchess have been shaped and molded to conform to their husbands’ wishes. When these stories took place, it was unheard of for a woman to make their beliefs known or to act upon their ideas. As a result, Louise was forced to take the role as an obedient wife, to abide what people considered normal in society. This became apparent when we learn of the way she reacted when she learns of the false rumor that was started regarding her husband’s death. It wasn’t until she was in deep thought, and staring out the window by herself, she has suddenly realized she had found complete happiness and total freedom from her past life. With these fresh feelings, she speaks the words, “free, free, free” (23)! Those words helped the audience to understand the feelings she had been forced to withstand for many years. Louise suddenly has a feeling of exhilaration as she begins to reflect on what her new life will bring her. She speaks of the treatment she had received by her husband and when she says that he has “the face that had never looked save with love upon her” (23). It seems to be proof of the resentment she felt toward the fact that he has not loved and cherished her throughout the course of their marriage. “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (23), the thoughts Louise begins to think of herself. Louise’s thoughts continue to build as she thinks to herself, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (23). The statement shows how he has held her back from expressing herself as a person and was forced to deal with her strong force upon her which she had to obey.

Nora had also been forced to conform her role in society. Playing the role of a caring housewife and mother. Torvald, her husband, likes to keep a tight reign on her and to make sure she behaves on as he pleases. In one instance, he detected that Nora had no been truthful with him. He states, “My little song-bird must never do that again. A song-bird must have a clean beak to chirp with? no false notes” (761)! The statement allowed the audience to understand how much control he has over Nora. Throughout the story, Mr. Helmer maintains the arrogant attitude and expects Nora to always agree with him. In one scene, Nora remarks to him “But don’t you think it is nice of me too, to do as you wish?” Torvald responds, “Nice?? because you do as your husband wishes?” “Well, well, you little rogue, I am sure you did not mean it in that way” (761). Her feelings are constantly ignored and disregarded by Torvald. He later admits that he cannot allow himself to be controlled by Nora or anyone else. Nora continuously tries to convince her husband to change the way he behaves, he claims, “Of course!? If only this obstinate little person can get her way! Do you suppose I am going to make myself ridiculous before my whole staff, to let people think that I am a man to be swayed by all sorts of outside influence” (769)?

“… I gave commands, then all smiles stopped together” (Browning 43-46), This metaphorical sentence tells the audience that his commands were the ones that caused the death of the Duchess. The Duke’s rage grew out of jealousy, jealousy that his wife did not behave the way he believed she should nor the way he wanted her to. The author used language techniques throughout the poem to emphasize the Duchess’s “flirtatious” character. The Duchess was very similar to Louise in ways that she couldn’t find her ways out of the struggles she was facing with her husband. The Duke gave the Duchess little to no freedom, he took complete control over her life. He felt as when he didn’t have control, he wasn’t living comfortably. He claims she “aggravated” him, by not solely focusing on him. “too easily impressed; she liked whatever/ She looked on, and her looks went everywhere” (23-24). The “spot of joy” (14) is what the Duke

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