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Above all things, it should be stated that the key purpose of the current research lies in attempts to contrast and compare the portrayals of women in the following works: Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, Wharton’s “Roman Fever”, Olds’ “The One Girl at the Boys Party”, Clifton’s “Homage to my Hips”, Piercy’s “Smell in the Kitchen” and Lockward’s “Husband Discovers Poetry”.
The thesis statement of the current research should be formulated as follows: “The portrayals of women in different historical times incorporate a wide range of homogenous peculiarities”. Therefore, the objectives of the current study should be outlined as follows:
The historical preconditions
To start with, a mental note should be made that Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” was firstly published in 1930. The times of economical crisis and poverty are clearly exemplified by the town where Emily has lived. Furthermore, Wharton’s “Roman Fever” being published in 1934 insinuates Roman Empire-style intrigue. The characters of the story are well-to-do people who look contrasting at the background of the post-crisis America. Furthermore, Olds’ “The One Girl at the Boys Party” being published in 1983 depicts initial steps towards feminist excellence, women’s competence and gender equality. Moreover, Clifton’s “Homage to my Hips” being introduced in 1987 is considered a fairly important affirmation of a woman’s natural power and strength disregarding the sole emphasis on her beauty. Similarly, Piercy’s “Smell in the Kitchen” evolves the idea of feminism and gender equality accentuating on the men’s oppression. Apart from the above, it should be ascertained that Lockward’s “Husband Discovers Poetry” being published in 2003 should be recognized as a representative of contemporary poetry. In view of the above, the poem is relatively modern; it emphasizes the lack of love and faith in contemporary marriages.
The comparative analysis
The portrayals of women depicted in various pieces of literature should be compared and contrasted. The comparative analysis of the designated short stories and poems is conceived to elucidate the following similarities and differences inherent to the female characters.
The issue of independence. In the story “A Rose for Emily” William Faulkner portrays a woman, Emily Grierson. According to the author, Emily may be grasped as the classic outsider determining and confining the town’s access to her genuine identity by remaining hidden. In this connection, it should be noted that the woman highly appreciates independence and does not depend on the public opinion. However, her endeavors towards independence have not saved her from love. In Wharton’s story “Roman Fever” a wide range of female characters should be outlined. The first noticeable character is Alida Slade. She is depicted as a middle-aged widow of Delphin Slade, a corporation lawyer. According to Wharton, Alida genuinely despises Grace Ansley who has once been intimate with Alida’s fiancé. In this connection, it should be emphasized that the second major character of the story is Grace Ansley, a middle-aged widow of opulent Horace Ansley, who has been shocked after being informed by Alida Slade about her long-simmering enmity. The third female character of the story is Barbara Ansley. Barbara is described as a lively daughter of Grace Ansley. In view of the above, it should be generalized that each women from the story “Roman Fever” is both single and independent from men’s authority. In the poem “The One Girl at the Boys Party” Sharon Olds makes attempts to depict the girl’s rapture for swimming and math. In accordance with the author’s narration it is possible to grasp that the poem’s heroine is the only one young girl among boys-swimmers (Olds 742). However, she does not depend on boys’ neither opinion nor authority. As far as the poem “Homage to my Hips” is concerned, it should be asserted that Lucille Clifton has managed to incorporate symbols, imagery and wordplay in her poem. The speaker in the poem is a woman beyond controversy. Due to her narration the woman is depicted as the most desired woman. The poem’s character is apprehended as confident, articulate and honest with herself. She is independent and nothing or nobody restricts her freedom. In the poem “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” Marge Piercy expresses her opinion in respect of feminist rights. The author professionally uses metaphors, symbolism, imagery, figurative language and devices of sound in order to augment the persuasiveness of her speech. Application of the aforesaid techniques facilitates the delivery of her message across the women who abhor the idea of being oppressed and make attempts to escape it. In the poem “My Husband Discovers Poetry” Diane Lockward demonstrates a contemporary approach towards the depiction of the female character. The wife’s decision to betray her husband proves the existence of the inner freedom and aspirations towards independence of mind and choice. Therefore, it should be noted that the motif of women’s independence is apparent in the aforementioned pieces of literature.
The issue of mystery. In the context of the first story, Faulkner makes attempts to disentangle Emily’s psychological character. She is apprehended as the emotionally restrained and mysterious person who lives unbalanced and extremely tragic life. When Emily has died, as Faulkner enlightens, the whole town has come to her funeral: “the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument” (Faulkner 148). In view of the above, it should be emphasized that Emily has been perceived by the public as an exceptional example. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to analyze Emily’s house in order to elucidate her character. In this connection, it should be asserted the woman’s home is depicted as “filled with dust and shadows” (Faulkner). The house lacks whiteness, cleanness and sunshine accurately resembling Emily’s innermost nature. Besides, it should be purported that Emily’s deeds and behaviors are as strange and unpredictable as her own character. She enforces her own sense of law and conduct by refusing to pay her taxes or buying the poison without clear explanation of its purpose. In contrast to Emily, the women from other works are less mysterious than she. However, it should be conceded that the young girl from Olds’ “The One Girl At The Boys’ Party” may be comprehended mysterious as well. In this connection, it seems prudent to explain that the young girl’s determination and passion for math make her an outsider among other girls. On the other hand, the relationship between women in “Roman Fever” is also mysterious and unpredictable. Also, the female character from “Homage to my Hip” seems to be strange as well. It looks like she is resisting both her inner complexes and social pressure. Likewise, in the poem “Smell in the Kitchen” Piercy provides mysterious depiction of kitchen wars. Similarly, Lockward lays a special emphasis upon the wife’s well-elaborated plan of revenge which is also mysterious.
The issue of offence. As far as Faulkner is concerned, it should be asserted that in some episodes Emily’s image of a monument is substituted by the image of a pitted and irritating woman who demands to live life on her own terms. In addition, Emily is frequently depicted as a subject of gossip and speculation. The people speculate about both the reason of buying the poison and the relationship between Emily and Homer. Likewise, it should be ascertained that Emily suffers necrophilia which may be comprehended from the last scene of the story (Faulkner 156). Thus, it should be conceded that Emily’s character is fairly complex and contradictory. Apart from the above, Wharton in his story narrates that Alida Slade is both jealous of Barbara and cross with Grace. She resents Barbara because of her apparent superiority to her own daughter. In the context of Clifton’s poem, it is possible to grasp that the poem’s speaker is neither a model-woman nor a tiny girl. She speaks of her “big” hips which “don’t fit into little petty places” (Clifton 715). Also, the speaker is aware of various sorts of labels which people may attach to her body. And the word “big” does not sound kindly in the interpretation by the society. However, the aforementioned issues do not bother the speaker. She seems to be proud of her “big” hips despite being conscious of society’s problems with female body images. Therefore, the narrator strives to both find out and express to herself all positive and affirmative arguments in respect of her hips in order to resist the social pressure and disfavor. As far as Piercy’s poem is concerned, it should be ascertained that the poetess starts her narration with the statement that “all over America women are burning dinners” (Piercy 717). In view of the above, it is possible to grasp both the ubiquitous and generalized image of those women who are forced by the men to spend most of their time in the kitchen. The women who are burning dinners feel great annoyance and rage. In this connection, the author endeavors to juxtapose the woman’s mental condition with “anger sputters in her brainpan, confined but spewing out missiles of hot fat” (Piercy 717). Furthermore, it may be appropriate to emphasize that the author of the poem tends to write about a war with food where women are prone to use food as their primary weapon against men. In the poem “My Husband Discovers Poetry” Diane Lockward applies a contemporary approach to the depiction of the female character. The author starts with the description of a relationship where a wife has doubts as to her husband’s love. The narrator speaks about her desire to write a poem motivated by the supposition that there is no love in the family. Moreover, it should be claimed that the husband’s “coldness, his lack of humor” justifies the wife’s actions towards adultery. In addition, the analysis of the poem clarifies that the husband’s coldness, the lack of humor and dislike of poetry hurt the wife’s feelings.
The issue of strength. As the foregoing discussion must suggest, the female characters are described by the authors as strong and capable. In the context of Faulkner’s story, it should be clarified than Emily is depicted as a strong woman who is capable to control her emotions and withstand tragedies in her life. Also, in Wharton’s story each woman plays some crucial role. All personages are correlative. In “Roman fever” the principle reciprocity between the heroines is linked with the power of passion. On the one hand, the passion manifests itself in the Coliseum tryst between Delphin Slade and Grace Ansley. On the other hand, the passion becomes apparent when Alida’s long-suppressed enmity for Grace and jealousy for Grace’s daughter has been finally revealed. In addition, it should be conceded that the power of irony is a fairly decisive mean which may be exemplified by the final passage where Alida Slade wonders “how two such exemplary characters” as Grace and Horace have managed to produce “anything quite so dynamic” as Barbara (Wharton 110). In the context of Olds’ poem, a special emphasis should be laid upon depiction of various mathematical operations exercised by the girl in the swimming pool. In this connection, it should be taken into consideration that the girl is strong in math because “she’ll subtract her height from ten feet, divide it into hundreds of gallons of water” (Olds 742). In view of the above, the young girl is capable to perform various mathematical operations in the swimming pool. According to Clifton’s poem, it should be noticed that the narrator does not supply the reader with abundantly descriptive information. At any rate, the reader knows that her hips are “big” but they are not becoming better at the end of the poem. Also, the narrator does not feel sorry for having “big” hips. She is reluctant to change the state of affairs as well. In addition, she accentuates on the depiction of her hips’ movements in the actual world. She is not interested in how her hips look like. Her emphasis on the hips’ power, magic and seductiveness elucidates the narrator’s motivation to act. To sum up, the female character in “Homage to hips” is a woman of action beyond controversy. As far as Piercy’s piece of literature is concerned, it should be assumed that the poetess considers women to be the inferior gender in the eyes of men and shares the women’s refusal to conform. Also, it seems prudent to lay a special emphasis upon the final line of the poem which states that “burning dinner is not incompetence but war” (Piercy 717). Therefore, it becomes apparent that the female character in the poem “Smell in the Kitchen” is not incompetent in the domain of household affairs. Inversely, the women are considered competent but angry with their men for treating them like the lesser gender. In the context of Lockward’s poem, it should be emphasized that “Husband Discovers Poetry” concerns the intimate relationship between the narrator and her old boyfriend. She elaborates on writing about the night with her boyfriend deprived of guilt and fear. In the final analysis, it should be summed up that the female characters from all the analyzed literature are portrayed as bold and confident. They seem to know what to do and indulge in contemplating their plans.
The issue of gender confrontation. As far as the first story is concerned, it should be claimed that the author makes attempts to depict Emily as a slender woman (Faulkner). Thus, it is possible to imagine that Emily has a well-formed body. She unconsciously confronts Homer causing his death. In Wharton’s piece of literature the female characters are described as predominant over males. They seem to be independent actors of their lives incited by passion, jealous, revenge, selfishness and competition. Also, Wharton strives to unite all his personages into a specific system where actions and emotions of one woman are driven by behaviors and passions of the other ones. Likewise, a mental note should be made that the speaker of Clifton’s poem looks like programming herself towards achieving the specified purpose clarified in the last two lines of the poem – “to put a spell on a man and spin him like a top” (Clifton 716). Similarly, a young girl from Olds’ poem confronts boys and surpasses them by exercising mathematical operations. In Lockward’s poem the circumstances of the husband’s character drive the wife towards the adultery. Also, the female character is portrayed as perfidious, deceitful, vengeful and calculating. She confronts her husband. As the result, her vengeance has been fulfilled. As far as the poem ‘Homage to my Hips” is concerned, it should be admitted that the female character from the poem confronts the consolidated image of men who are about to be seduced by her “big” hips.
The issue of purpose. In Emily’s case, it should be traced that the woman’s particular purpose lies in attracting Homer to her life and keep him there even after death. According to Wharton, each woman from “Roman Fever” possesses her personal purpose which is sometimes contradictory. Likewise, Olds endeavors to depict the image of a strong young girl with sweet face and highly developed intelligence who persevere in swimming towards her personal aim side-by-side with strong competitors represented by males (Olds 742). Moreover, the episode when the girl stands out in a line of boys may feasibly imply that it is beneficial to stand out and be different than the rest of people. In the context of Clifton’s poem, a mental note should be made that the speaker looks like programming herself towards achieving the specified purpose clarified in the last two lines of the poem – “to put a spell on a man and spin him like a top” (Clifton 716). In Piercy’s poem the female personage possess the most desirable purpose to overwhelm the men’s oppression. As far as the poem “Husband Discovers Poetry” is concerned, it should be claimed that the wife’s principle purpose lies in both vengeance and intention to teach her husband.
In the final analysis, it is possible to arrive at a conclusion that the thesis statement - The portrayals of women in different historical times incorporate a wide range of homogenous peculiarities – has been both followed and verified as true. Also, it should be mentioned that the research objectives have been achieved: 1) – the historical preconditions for specific portrayals of women have been investigated; 2) – the interrelation between historical periods and the images of women in the literature have been detected; 3) – the portrayals of women have been contrasted and compared.