October 6, 2013
The beginning of the 1900s saw the development of the downtrodden American. The Industrial Revolution had forced farmers into factories and destroyed the conventions of relationships. Recreational prostitution became exercise as an excuse to keep wives happy and rampant venereal diseases ripped through the middle class. In reaction to these developments the responsibilities of women began to shift. Instead of placing the responsibility on men to stay away from vices, suddenly it was the unrealistic expectation of women to create a home so perfect that it kept men from straying. Authors of the time contributed work that offered a social commentary on the guidelines given to the women of these times. Ernest Hemingway created a portrait of the ideal wife in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” while Henry James in “Daisy Miller: A Study” provided a look at the consequences for a woman who did not adhere to the Victorian standard, and on the opposite side of the spectrum Kate Chopin criticized the expectations that burdened women in her work “The Storm.”
A responsibility of women in the early 1900s was to act as a faithful wife. The only character in the three works mentioned who accomplished this was Helen in “Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Her husband insulted her, told her that he never loved her, and then died; but even while he insulted her Helen remained loving and faithful. At one point her husband went so far as to admit that the only thing he enjoyed was hurting her and Helen’s response was, “No, that’s not true. You liked to do many things and everything you wanted to do I did.” (Hemmingway 1025) It was not her place to get angry about unkind words from her husband; it was her job to obediently enjoy the things he enjoyed. Helen was verbally abused and lost a husband, but because she behaved as a proper wife Hemingway gave her a kind end. Alternatively, in “Daisy Miller: A Study,” Daisy was a wild girl...
Cited: Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: 1865 to the Present. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Print.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” Baym 434-437.
Hemingway, Ernest. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Baym 1067-1083.
James, Henry. “Daisy Miller: A Study.” Baym 327-365.
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