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Characterization Of Women As Empowering Figures In The Country Wife And Pygmalion

2125 words - 9 pages

In The Country Wife, women are treated as mere objects and are viewed by the men of the play as being inferior. Sparkish views Alethea as an object that should be flaunted around and is only interested in marrying her for her wealth. Sparkish revels in the idea that he be envied for his wife because he believes that allowing more men to love her and envy him for owning her will increase her worth. In viewing her as something that gains value, Sparkish likens her to a treasure at an auction, whose value goes up as the number of bidders rises. Mr. Pinchwife also does not view his wife as a person because he refuses to let his wife go out and enjoy the sights and wonders of city life and instead keeps her confined to the house. Like Sparkish, Mr. Pinchwife did not marry Margery out of love, but as he says he marries her because she is a fool which will guarantee that he does not become a cuckhold. Mr. Pinchwife’s statement shows that views women as being objects that influence men’s status depending on whether their wife is faithful or not. While Sir Jasper appears to express women in a positive light when he says, “That sweet, soft, gentle, tame noble creature woman, made for man’s companion” (II. i.460-461), he reveals that he has a preference of characteristics that make women docile and obedient towards their husbands. As pointed out by Horner, when he says, “So is that soft, gentle, tame, and more noble creature a spaniel, and has all their tricks-can fawn, lie down, suffer beating and fawn the more” (II. i.462-464), the words that Sir Jasper uses to describe women can ideally be used to describe a dog as well. The words “tame”, “noble” and “man’s companion” (II. i.459-461) dehumanize women because women are likened to accessories that are merely there to be at a man’s side. In Sir Jasper’s description of women, there is no mutual love between a husband and wife, but rather there is one-sided compliance where the wife must please her husband as he wishes.
Like the men of The Country Wife, Mr. Higgins from Pygmalion treats women as if they are not people. Higgins bullies Eliza and treats her without respect because he only views her as an experiment. In the scene where Eliza arrives to Higgins’ house to have him teach her how to speak proper English, he immediately proceeds to order Eliza around and goes as far as to threaten her with violence if she cries. In the same scene, Higgins likens Eliza to being trash when he tells Mrs. Pearce to “wrap her up in brown paper” (16), as if she were an object or parcel. Higgins further dehumanizes Eliza by insinuating that she has no dignity and self-respect because he believes that he can easily bribe her by offering her chocolates and luxury. Higgins also shows disrespect toward her by insulting her as shown when he becomes disgusted with the way she talks, when he says, “A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere-no right to live.”(8) Higgins’ belief that he...

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