Last Updated 29 Mar 2021

Gender Roles and Marriage

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The representation of gender roles and marriage has always been a controversial issue. However, much can be learned about unhappy marriages when examining the roles of both females and males within the marriage. The examination of gender roles and marriage are seen through the following short stories The Story of an Hour, The Necklace, and Country Lovers, along with scholarly articles based on gender role and marriage. Evaluation of these literary works shows quite clearly that social and economic class affects choice in marriage.

Gardiner’s County Lovers presents its fairly clear theme right from the beginning of the story. Yes, there is a theme of race, but if you look even deeper you can see the underlying idea of marriage and gender roles. There is a love between two people but it is forbidden due them being a part of two separate classes. In the marriage that takes place between Njabulo and Thebedi there is an absence of love. Thebedi agrees to marry Njabulo because it is what is expected of her, but this does not constitute what many see as a proper marriage.

There are some prevalent gender roles expressed in this story. There is are not many females described in the story other than Thebedi, but those who are discussed always have the role of being silent, and that of a domestic worker. Thebedi is often described as being the primary care giver of her children, whereas Njabulo and Paulus are often described as holding careers outside the home. The gender roles in this story are very stereotypical. Thebedi is portrayed as being weak and helpless and she stands outside her hut while Paulus is alone with the child.

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She knowingly left her child alone with Paulus after he strongly expressed his dislike of the situation of her having his child. The author portrays her as being helpless and innocent but the death of her child could have been prevented if she wanted it. The point of view of this story is that of a third-person. The narrator was not involved as a character in the story, which made it harder to get involved in the story emotionally. There was little connection to the inner thoughts of Thebedi and Paulus. This made theory very limited, in that the narrator knew of the events but not of their experiences.

This objective view could have been improved by connecting the reader more to the thoughts and feelings of Paulus, Thebedi and Njabulo. In the end of the, Njabulo decides to stay with his wife and continue living as a family with their new born child. There is little said about how he felt about the whole situation, when in fact the decision he made was a very big one, but would have taken a lot of thought and contradictory feelings. The tone reflected by the author was very somber and solemn. From the begging there was much negatively expressed towards the thoughts of love and marriage.

There is a verbal ironic one use when all evidence persuades the reader to think that Thebedi and Paulus will be in trouble or their actions, but in the end their relationship was not acknowledged and they are both able to walk away and live their lives freely. The language used by the author also suggests gender inequality. As Thebedi is 18 years old and Njabulo is 19, Thebedi is still being called a “girl” and Njubulo is considered a “man”. Within the story The Necklace the theme of changing gender roles within the married couples is prevalent.

Madame Loisel did not marry for love, but rather married because it was expected of her. She married a man who worked in the Ministry of Education and had little money. Mr. Loisel, however, did marry for love and was very satisfied with their life together. Mathilde Loisel did not respect her husband due to him not making as much money as she would like, and she is portrayed as always wanting more. Her husband tGries hard to do anything to please her and makes sacrifices to keep her happy. Mathilde uses her innocence to gain sympathy, which leads to her getting the possessions that she desires.

She is presented as being a weak and needy wife who cannot care for herself, relying on her husband to survive. When the Loisel’s had to earn more money to pay off their debts, Mr. Loisel takes on a second job working outside of them home while Mrs. Loisel works in the home cooking, cleaning, and taking on the care giver role. In the begging of the story it seemed as though Mathilde held most of the power in their marriage, but once conflict arose the power shifted back to Mr. Loisel, as Mathilde continued to do exactly what he said without questioning.

This story is also told from a third-person point of view. The narrator is not part of the story and presents the action to the reader from on outside view. The reader is able to see everything through the eyes or the narrator, but the reliability is questionable in that the information coming from a third party. The style of writing is very fluent and easy to follow, which makes for a very enjoyable read. deMauppassant uses situation irony in a creative way to give the story an humorous twist; when Mathilde finds out the diamond she and her husband have been working so hard to pay off, was actually imitation.

This discrepancy allows the author to add humor, giving the story a light and playful tone. The use of satire exists towards the end of the story in the form of a farce. Subtle humor and hilarity is developed through improbable situations and exaggeration. In this situation the probability of Mr. And Mrs. Loisel going through ten years of misery and poverty just to find out the diamond was fake, is very low, which is why it makes the story so humorous Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour also displays a theme of an unhappy marriage.

When Mrs. Mallard received the news about her dead husband she began to weep uncontrollably, only to figure out she was weeping out of joy not sadness. Mrs. Mallards journey thorugh her thoughts help her to realize just how unhappy she was in her marriage, and how much better off she will be living for herself, and only herself. Although this story is mostly about Mrs. Mallard, it still gives a sense of the stereotypical gender role. An early mention of Mr. Mallard sates that Mrs. Mallard was repressed by him in their marriage life. Mrs. Mallard’s constant joy (after hearing about her husband’s death) suggests that she wanted to leave her husband but did not have the bravery to do so. Also, men are portrayed as the stronger sex as Josephine comforts her sister as she cries in her arms, while Richard stands by and watches. The female takes on the role of the nurturer and comforter as the male takes on the role of the strong, silent type. The narrator, although a third-person point of view, does a great job of providing an in depth description of Mrs. Mallard’s feelings toward the whole situation.

The action is presented through an outside view, displaying the characters thoughts and feelings toward the death of Mr. Ballard. Although most events are sensed through the eyes or the narrator, they do a great job of getting in touch with Mrs. Mallard’s feelings, so the reader can connect better with her, and how she is reacting to the situation. The narrator’s omniscient view is very refreshing and informative. Chopin uses a combination of verbal and situation irony to add humor to the situation. Throughout the story, it is explicitly expressed how each character feels about the unfortunate death of Mr. Mallard. As Mrs. Mallard chants “free, free, free! ” to her in the bathroom, it leads the reader to believe that the deal of Mr. Mallard is accurate and Mrs. Mallard is ready to move on with her life. When Mrs. Mallard finally comes out of the bedroom, feeling quite positive about the situation, shock arrives on everyone’s faces as they find out Mr. Ballard was not on the train, and is therefore still alive. Although this story does not directly speak of social class, Mr. Mallard taking the train does suggest this family within the middle class category.

Joan Kahn that during since the 70’s healthy adults are starting to face new challenges unrelated to their career. These activities are productive and provide new opportunities. Some of these activities include part time employment, volunteer, and informal support to family in friends. Kahn noted the gender difference between men and women’s behaviors and relationships. While men tend to work more, while achieving outside the home, women on the other hand are more nurturing in the home. Her studies have focused on age and gender differences in housework and have shown husbands to do less housework than wives which tends to increase with age.

Findings on the gender gap in forms of unpaid labor have showed that women did more work for both kin and non kin than did men. Also men showed to be happier in their marriages than women. Also, her study illustrated that women were consistently more likely than men to assist their children in some capacity, as well as those who had living parents. William Wilcox demonstrates the profound changes in the functions and stability of marriage. The rise in women’s social and economic interest has drastically increased.

He states, in the from the 18th century and onwards women became more concerned about marrying for social status, than marrying for love. The emotional functions and character of marriage have and marital happiness has become less important. Marital stability; home production, childbearing, and division of labor have been determined predominantly by the stereotypes of what is expected by either gender. Wilcox states, in his gender model of marriage, that men and women are invested in doing that their gender suggests they embrace. They are raised to live up to their gender role ideology.

He believes women and men are socialized to hold on to their gender typical patterns of behavior. Jonathan Vespa describes children as a changing factor on gender ideology. When married couples have children, the couples are more likely to agree that a women’s duty is care giving. The effect of employment on gender ideology also depends on life experience and economic status. Working men with an employed wife their family suffered, where as working men with a stay-at-home wife reported their family was stable. Gayle Kaufman believes gender ideology has changed greatly during the last few decades.

She also believes it is important to examine the relationship between ideology and marital happiness. There is a strong connection between gender attitudes in terms of expected roles for men and women and power relations. The traditional attitudes focus on men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, with both holding different amounts of power. Nontraditional attitudes focus on sharing economic and caring tasks which divides power more equally, but this is not the majority of most marriages. Much can be learned about unhappy marriages when examining the roles of both females and males within the marriage.

Throughout this paper, the effects of social and economic class have shown to have a great impact on marriage. There are many common themes within the three literary works, including the unhappiness of wives in their marriages, as none of them married for love. The examination of gender roles and marriage are seen through the following short stories The Story of an Hour, The Necklace, and Country Lovers, along with scholarly articles based on gender role and marriage. Evaluation of these literary works shows quite clearly that social and economic class affects choice in marriage.

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