About this sample
About this sample
Words: 2631 |
14 min read
Published: Aug 6, 2021
Words: 2631|Pages: 6|14 min read
Children’s literature novels of the 20th century portrayed a general theme of women in traditional women domestic roles. The cliché of a 1950 perfect housewife is recognisable in almost every novel; the batch-baking women in their frilly gowns and puffed sleeves. It was a time when women were repressed and a time when the best career a woman could have was of course, taking care of her husband and home. These differences between two sexes were reinforced by writers like Coventry Patmore who coined the term “Angel in the House”. This essay will talk about two books, “Anne of Green Gables” and “The Hunger Games” in which the women are not portrayed in this stereotypical way. While domesticity and female themes are subtly reinforced for Anne, it is completely subverted for Katniss. The characters of both novels had to overcome certain obstacle to prove their worth to the world and be accepted for who they are. They were not born righteous, but the path they chose forced them to become hardworking and persistent. While Anne made dreaming her coping mechanism of fighting against the fixed narrow mindset of the society, Katniss chose to combat against the capitol dominance which had a corrupt system of engaging its districts into a sadistic game of slow death. Anne has her own agency whereas Katniss lacks her agency.
Anne was not fighting for feminist rights directly; the book was written during the early 1900s when women had almost no rights, her world was focused more on the beauties of nature and Anne's schoolgirl dreams. But, Anne stood up for herself and her dear ones whenever she needed to. The story starts with her being adopted by a couple in Avonlea, but she soon discovers that it was a boy that they had wanted to adopt and not a girl. The first instance when she stands up for herself and proves that she can be equal to a boy is when she convinces Marilla and Matthew to let her stay at Green Gables, even though she isn't a boy:
The child raised her head quickly, revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips. “You would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a place you thought was going to be home and found that they didn't want you because you weren't a boy”.
This also portrays a favouritism towards boys. Matthew and Marilla want to adopt a boy so that the boy can help them in the farm while Anne being a girl, would be more of a liability rather than help as the only way she could help the couple was by doing housework.
Another moment when Anne proves that she will not let anyone get away by disrespecting her was when she shows that she is not a typical girl who fawns over boys. On the first day of school, she stands up for herself when Gilbert Blythe harasses her. Gilbert Blythe is one of the famous boys in the school and girl’s find him very charismatic and dreamy, but Anne makes him know that he can't just touch a girl's hair without consequences and makes him pay for what he has done regardless of his social status in school:
“She flashed one indignant glance at Gilbert from eyes whose angry sparkle was swiftly quenched in equally angry tears. 'You mean, hateful boy!' she explained passionately. 'How dare you!' And then — thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it — slate, not head — clear across”.
By punishing Gilbert on the spot, she is teaching the implied child readers that it is not okay for a man to touch a woman without her permission by slating down Gilbert’s head.
Similarly, yet another instance when she stands her ground is when Ms. Rachel ridicules they way Anne looks and taunts her red hair.:
'Well, they didn't pick you for your looks, that's sure and certain,' was Mrs. Rachel Lynde's emphatic comment … Anne continued to face Mrs. Rachel undauntedly, head up, eyes blazing, hands clenched, passionate indignation exhaling from her like an atmosphere. 'How dare you say such things about me?'.
On the surface, it looks like they are arguing about her looks but in reality, Ms. Rachel is questioning Anne’s self-respect and they are arguing about her dignity as a “red head”.
Yet another way of proving that Anne is not confined by the male-dominant society and that she has much more potential than just for sitting at home and taking care of the house is by not being afraid of saying what she wants to say, excelling in academics and by not feeling limited by her gender.
At a time when women were supposed to be act like “good” girls and sit at home and wait for their husband quietly, Anne was speaking her mind in front of everyone, not minding what other people thought about her.:
'I've had [children should be seen and not heard] said to me a million times if I have once. And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?'.
Anne was passionate about learning and wanted to excel in academics. She was not afraid of going against boys and her determination to do well resulted in her beating the boys of her class in academics:
Anne flung herself into her studies heart and soul, determined not to be outdone in any class by Gilbert Blythe … Now Gilbert was head of the spelling class; now Anne, with a toss of her long red braids, spelled him down. One morning Gilbert had all his sums done correctly and had his name written on the blackboard on the roll of honor; the next morning Anne, having wrestled wildly with decimals the entire evening before, would be first.
Anne never felt discouraged by her sex. She thrived by the mere fact of being a young woman. Due to this reason, she became ambitious about her goal and it was her ambition that led to the saving of her foster parents’ farm:
I'll win that scholarship if hard work can do it,' she resolved … 'Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions. I'm so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them — that's the best of it.'
I'm just as ambitious as ever. Only, I've changed the object of my ambition … My future life seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe the best does.'
It is noteworthy to keep in mind that she was able to be ambitious and not feel limited by her gender because her foster parents were a source of support for her. Her foster parents admired her for her goals, and she was praised for doing things that were traditionally for men and often looked down upon for girls:
'I'd rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne,' said Matthew, patting her hand. 'Just mind you that — rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn't a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl — my girl — my girl that I'm proud of.'
Her foster parents did not even object to her going to college- an act strictly reserved for boys in the early 1900s. Even though everyone else in the village told them to not allow her to go and detested the fact that she was doing an “unwomanly thing”, they left the decision upon her to do whatever she wanted to do:
Mrs. Lynde deposited her substantial person upon the stone bench by the door … 'I don't believe in girls going to college with the men and cramming their heads full of Latin and Greek and all that nonsense.' 'But I'm going to study Latin and Greek just the same, Mrs. Lynde,' said Anne, laughing.
It is almost as if the parenting of Marilla fell on deaf ears of Anne. It seems like Marilla is learning from Anne and not the other way around. Marilla’s way of punishment is often perceived to be wrong in the end.
The reason why Anne’s coping mechanism is defined to be “dreaming” is because even though she had wanted to many things in her life and was full of ambitions, she eventually has to take on the role of a traditional woman and be a housewife. Matthew’s death causes Anne to change her path from college to taking care of her family at home. She ends up marrying Mathew Gilbert, the boy she was often competing against to be better at academics. As Anne approaches puberty, she becomes “a tall, serious-eyed girl” who is “pruned down and branched out” (274). Anne’s free world slowly comes back to the male dominant world as she grows up. Thus, even though at the beginning it seems like Anne’s character is different from the imperial female characters, at the very end her goals like a dream end as she grows up and faces the reality of the world around her. However, it is important to note that it was her decision to stay at home and help her mother and marry Gilbert rather than her conforming to what the society expected from her.
The case of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games is a bit different as the novel is not written at a time when women are considered inferior to men. However, she is continuously forced to maintain an act and be conforming in order to get acknowledged and survive. When she enters the Game makers’ room before the games to get analyzed, they act as if she is not there. To become accepted in the eyes of the sponsors of the game makers, she is forced to show her bravery and archery skills by shooting an arrow into the Game makers’ area:
Suddenly I am furious that with my life on the line, they don’t even have the decency to pay attention to me. That I’m being upstaged by a dead pig. My heart starts to pound, I can feel m-y face burning. Without thinking, I pull an arrow from my quiver and send it straight at the Game makers table. I hear shouts of alarm as people stumble back. The arrow skewers the apple in the pig’s mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares at me in disbelief. “Thankyou for your consideration” I say. Then I give a slight bow and walk straight toward the exit without being dismissed'ю
She is constantly forced to put on an act and act like someone she isn’t, whether it be at home or during the games:
When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country…Eventually I learned to hold my tongue and turn my features to an indifferent mask so no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly at school. Make inly polite small talk in the public market… Even at home, where I am less pleasant. I avoid discussing tricky topics. Like the reaping, or food shortage, or the Hunger games. Prim might repeat my words and then where would be.
In the arena, Katniss realizes that she can get sponsorship and thus increase her chances of survival by acting like she is in love with Peeta and make the perfect star-crossed love story.. Katniss is clearly uncomfortable playing the “girly” role and this shows when Effie is trying to prep her for her interview.
This shows the double standards of how females have to look in the society. The capitol of Panem is a replica of the modern society where visuals are everything. Further, the people of Capitol are sexist; when Peeta confesses her love for Katniss, they pretty much force her to reciprocate the feelings. They presume that Katniss likes Peeta too just by the mere fact that Peeta likes her and that they are from the same district. They have certain expectations of how the men and women dress and behave, and Katniss is forced to adapt according to their ideologies:
I’ve never worn high heels and can’t get used to essentially wobbling around on the balls of my feet. But Effie runs around in them full-time, and I’m determined that if she can do it, so can I. The dress poses another problem. It keeps tangling around my shoes so, of course, I hitch it up, and then Effie swoops down on me like a hawk, smacking my hands and yelling, “Not above the ankle!” When I finally conquer walking, there’s still sitting, posture — apparently I have a tendency to duck my head — eye contact, hand gestures, and smiling. Smiling is mostly about smiling more. Effie makes me say a hundred banal phrases starting with a smile, while smiling, or ending with a smile. By lunch, the muscles in my cheeks are twitching from overuse.
Katniss has no control of the circumstances around her and she gets thrust between a love triangle. Katniss is unsure of her feelings as the love act she was doing with Peeta was just for them to survive the games and Gale was Katniss’s closest friend. Katniss feels guilty for not being able to choose between the two and it is almost implied as if she owes the boys some reciprocation as she is getting attention from them. Haymitch repeatedly condemns Katniss for not returning Peeta’s feelings and tells her that she doesn’t know what’s best for her. Haymitch shows clear favouritism throughout the books when he hides the plans from Katniss. Katniss’ anger is justifiable when Peeta announces his love for her to all of the kingdom of Panem without telling her. But, Haymitch suggests that its better for Katniss to not the plans. When he hides plans from Peeta and Peeta confronts him about it, he validates his anger. Haymitch being their mentor, is portrayed as being right.
One feminist, Audre Lorde, argues in her essay that, “For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive.” Katniss first gains attention by the people of Capitol when she acts as an empathic sister to Rue. She forms an alliance with Rue during the games, not because of strength but rather on intuition and emotion. She herself admits that Rue reminds her of her sister, Prim. Another instance when she makes her own decision is when she volunteer to tribute in place of her sister as she wants her family – her mother and her sister to not suffer.
It is pretty evident that Katniss lacks her agency. She gets a rude awakening that if she doesn’t stand up for herself and embrace who she is, people will continue to bring her down and make choices for her. She goes from a rebellious teenager to a soldier with lot of respect and power. She recognizes and values her feminine strengths which ultimately leads to her starting a revolution and defeating president Coin and overturn the system.
In both films, the theme of feminism is highlighted. Anne has her agency since the beginning but in the end, it seems to be futile as it still leads to Anne taking care of her house and family. Katniss doesn’t have her agency in the beginning but once she embraces herself and becomes in charge of her agency, she is able to fight her enemies. While in Anne of Green Gables, embracing feminism is linked to her being tied to her house, embracing feminism in The Hunger Games means being true to herself and empowering yourself as an individual.
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