Thursday, May 3, 2012

American Middle Class Women As Portrayed In American 20th Century Drama

(Something I wrote in-class for my English final)

     The plays TriflesFences and The Death of a Salesman are all completely different plays, written by different people with different experiences. All three plays focus on the American middle class, spanning over the course of a decade, from the setting of Trifles to the setting of The Death of a Salesman. In two of the Tree plays, women are treated as supporting characters, but all women in all three plays are treated merely as playing supporting roles to the men in their lives.

     In Trifles, the play where women play a lead role and men play a supporting role, the characters the women portray are not treated with any kind of fairness. The men, while fumbling around trying to solve a murder, often mock the women who seem to be coming up with what could be evidence to convict the lady they have in custody. "Here a lady's been drug off to jail for killing her husband and their worried about her fruit." One of the male characters said.

     "Have you figured out how she stitched it?" Another teased.
     The women of this play, while intelligent and insightful, were not taken seriously.
     In Fences we see Rose, who is written as a strong, take-no-nonsense kind of woman, still, she is the border between Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale in Trifles and Linda in The Death of a Salesman. She seems to demand a certain level of respect, but she still listens when Troy tells her to go and make something to eat. She also takes no courage in standing up for Cory against Troy on the issue of playing football. Troy treats her subpar, and even when he has a baby with another woman, she still stands by him, to his death and beyond.
     Lastly there is Linda, the timid peace keeper in The Death of A Saleman. She is so afraid to question her husband that she doesn't even address the fact that he's trying to kill himself, let alone address the fact that he's never been the salesperson he's built himself up to be. She just serves him, cares for him, tries to make and keep him happy and well. Both in writing and in the way she is treated by her husband and other men, she is the most subservient of all the women.
     All three women in all three plays exemplify what the patriarchal American society wanted women to be like, but they were not all the same. Linda, written by a whit man in the 1950's, is the most submissive and timid, but not the most taken advantage of, not on a conscious level, anyway. Rose, written by an African American man in the early to mid 1900's, is submissive, dedicated, timid AND is taken advantage of with her complete consent. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale written by a white woman in the 1900's, are often talked down to, like one talking to a child, but are portrayed as intelligent and independent minded, though also timid.

"Those that dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the day to find that all was vanity, but the dreamers of the day, are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams and make them real."

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