All human beings are judging
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All human beings are judging
Up to now, we have read four stories about four condemned women, and they were all either condemned by social conventions or restricted by them. Coincidentally, they were all works of male writers. How can a man fully understand a woman's desires or dilemma? The answer is that they probably did not, and that they it is inevitable for them to look at women from a man's point of view.
Flaubert saw Emma's desires as tedious and superficial wanting caused by the influences of romance novels, and she was condemned for breaking the moral codes. However, Flauber did acknowledge the fact that it was society's moral code that was suffocating Emma and preventing her from fulfilling her dreams, but Flauber did not really understand how important it was for women to have the same kind of freedom as men do. In the end, Emma had to acknowledge that her attempts of pursuing happiness were false and was eventually punished for wanting more than what a woman should have. On the other hand, Homais, as a man, was able to succeed in pursuing his desires without being punished.
Hardy, on the other hand, was totally sympathetic with his heroine. Tess, under his pen, was a totally tragic existence condemned by God. She did not have the desire to break out of the repression of morality; instead, she upheld the moral code that caused her miserable life. Only in the end did Tess fight back and kill Alec, but she did not do it for her own liberation but for the love of another man. Hardy implied the idea that women were always subordinate to men. He applauded Tess for learning and upholding Angel's believes and gave Tess no believes of her own
Like Flauber and Hardy, Tolstoy was a moralist. From the beginning to the end, Tolstoy's heroine was consumed by her own moral believes. Anna, like Emma, wanted more than what society offered her, and actively decided to pursue her dreams. To establish his point of moral rightness, Tolstoy gave Anna a taste of freedom and then constrained her again with her self-condemnation. Tolstoy's punishment for stepping out of the boundaries of moral codes was even more severe than those of Flauber's. He not only punished Anna with death but also subjected her to continuous torture and self-condemnation.
If we say that Tolstoy was a moralist, we can also say that Fowls was a liberalist. He did not judge or condemn his own heroine. Instead, he smirked at the social conventions that initially imprisoned Sarah (or Emma and Anna). Fowles was writing a very different kind of story than the other ones we have been discussing. His story was not aimed at upholding the moral codes but to destroy them. Unlike Flauber and Tolstoy, Fowls did not punish his heroine for stepping out of the boundaries, instead, we get a sense that Sarah was applauded for breaking the rules. Notice that Emma or Anna's attempts for breaking out of their confinements often resulted in disastrous endings. Sarah, on the other hand, succeeded in most of what she wished for. So far, it seemed like Fowls gave Sarah a lot more freedom than the rest of the fallen women, which in fact, he did. However, Fowls did not give Sarah all the freedom a human being deserved. Sarah was not able to escape from her position without the help of Charles. Fowls did give Sarah more freedom than the other condemned women, but the freedom was never equivalent to what a man had.
From what we have been discussing, it seems that men writers often tend to judge women from their own value system and stereotypes. Does it mean that a woman writer would judge her characters less? Lets look at the story of Pride and prejudice. In this story, Jane Austen did give Elizabeth more choices than the other women we have been discussing. She had more freedom to choose and express her desires, but she was a woman that constrained herself in the reign of the social code. The treatment of other characters totally reflected Austen's views on morals and values. There was also a wicked woman in Austen's story - Kitty who eloped with Wickham. Moreover, when Charlotte decided
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Fiction, Literature, Film, Period television series, Love stories, 19th-century theatre, Georgists, Leo Tolstoy, Vegetarianism, Jane Austen, Emma, Pride and Prejudice
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