A Paradox: Written Through The Eyes Of A Woman By The Mind Of A Man: Issues Of Patriarchy In Sinclair Ross's "As For Me And My House"

2521 words - 10 pages

During the time period that "As for Me and My House" was written, gender roles and expectations were fairly traditional- traditional in the sense that the women would perform domestic duties and men would be the primary source of income, the authoritarian, and look after work outside the home. At this time, there was no question of the masculinity of a man and the expected femininity of a woman. On the surface it would appear that throughout As for Me and My House, the gender roles seem to be largely reversed. The novel focuses on Phillip Bentley and his wife. Phillip appears to be a passive, aspiring artist who doubles a church minister, while his wife is a tough spirited resilient woman who can definitely take care of herself."As for Me and My House" is notoriously known for its distinctive narrative. The author- a man- communicates to his audience through the journal entries of a small town house wife. This was deemed innovative - especially regarding the time frame in which it was written. Many attributed the method used by Sinclair Ross to his own sexuality and gender issues and the birthing of the feminist movement. If the reader delves deeper into this idea and explores the material thoroughly issues of patriarchy are prevalent. Sinclair Ross's As for Me and My House was written through the eyes of a woman yet exhibits judgments and standards which stem from the mind of a man. While attempting to communicate through the journals of Mrs. Bentley the author, perhaps unconsciously, demeans women and puts them into second class positions as human beings.This is illustrated in the opening paragraph of As for Me and My House, Phillip Bentley has fallen asleep, his clothes still on with one leg dangling to the floor- Obviously exhausted. In the next paragraph his wife says:"It's been a hard day for him, putting up stovepipes and opening crates, for the fourth time getting our old linoleum down. He hasn't the hands for it. I could use the pliers and hammer twice as well myself, with none of his mutterings and smashed up fingers either, but in the parsonage, on calling days, it simply isn't done...It was twelve years ago, in our first town, that I learned my lesson, one day when they caught me in the woodshed making kindling of a packing box. "Surely this isn't necessary, Mrs. Bentley- your position in the community- and Mr. Bentley such a big, able-bodied man" (5)It appears that women are not permitted to step outside their learned gender roles, and if she should- it is greatly frowned upon. They are "fragile" and "weak"- unable to do things for themselves. Women need the utility of a man to exist.The characters of As for Me and My House challenge classic gender roles behind closed doors while the plot itself falls into a typical stereotype. Mrs. Bentley has constructed two feminine selves: an inner self, a supposedly essential femininity, is a strong-willed, self-reliant woman seen as a fiction imposed upon the developing individual; and an outer...

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