Comparative Essay: Tocqueville Vs. Ortiz Cofer

1025 words - 4 pages

In the essay “How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes” written by Alexis de Tocqueville and the personal narrative “The Story of My Body” written by Judith Ortiz Cofer, both authors compare some social values from their hometown to those of America. In his essay, the European author Alexis de Tocqueville goes to America to examine the social position of American women and compares the equality of sexes between the two countries. From his observation, he concludes that unlike the status of women in Europe, American women are morally and intellectually equal as men despite the difference of their gender roles. His target audience may probably be some elder people since young readers may find his assumptions antiquated as his essay has been written for nearly two centuries. Similarly, in “The Story of My Body,” Ortiz Cofer, who is born in Puerto Rico, describes how people see her differently when she moves from Puerto Rico to America. She subdivides her personal story into four sections: “Skin,” “Color,” “Size,” and “Looks” to clearly narrate her personal experiences. Ortiz Cofer’s story makes connection with a diversity of readers as many of the readers probably have some similar experiences like hers. Although both authors use comparison as strategy, Ortiz Cofer is more successful in drawing readers’ attention and convincing them of her point of views through her personal narrative, while Tocqueville’s use of his observation without legitimate evidence is less successful in persuading readers of his position.
Throughout his essay “How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes,” Tocqueville compares the women’s status of European to that of American. For example, to emphasize the roles of American women in society, he first describes how European women are alike to men: “They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things,—their occupations, their pleasures, [and] their business” (Tocqueville 521). Following the description of the condition in Europe, he depicts how American women have completely different duties from men: “In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes…American women never manage the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in political life…” (521). By comparing the two, Tocqueville is effective in conveying his message that American women are bounded by domestic work, unlike European women. However, the conclusions that Tocqueville draws are only based on his observation without any legitimate evidence. For instance, when Tocqueville claims that American women are equal to men morally and intellectually, he does not give any evidence to support his claim. He simply states that “[American men] have decided that her mind is just as fitted as that of a man to discover the plain truth, and her heart as firm to...

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