Early Twentieth Century Literature: Perkings, Chopin, Fitzgerald

1391 words - 6 pages

When studying gender roles in history, one will find that females are often depicted in similar ways no matter the era or region of study. Even when comparing the industrialized, early, twentieth century to today’s progressive era, there are striking similarities between female roles. We can see that over the course of the twentieth century, the qualities of loyalty and honesty have decreased in marriages due to the treatment of the two main female roles as depicted literature. The first was the role of the wife. The wife was often portrayed as a housekeeper and a nanny. Dull in appearance, there was no aesthetic beauty to this typical female. The other main role was the “other woman.” The ...view middle of the document...

Unable to escape from their oppressive situations, wives accepted their tragic ends. Transitioning into the twentieth century, this idea of an oppressed female was still exceedingly present. Although the roles of these females were split into two, the role of the wife and the role of the mistress, both roles kept the beliefs of the previous century both in literature and in society.
A common example of early, twentieth century literature is The Great Gatsby. In his novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald attempted to depict life in the roaring twenties. He not only accurately captured the class division of society, but the internal structure of the household as well. One of the supporting characters, Tom Buchanan, was a common, twenties man. Rich and sexist, he rarely lived up to the standards he imposed upon others. Married to Daisy Buchanan yet involved in an affair with Myrtle Wilson, Tom accurately portrayed the immense amount of infidelity present in his era. Financially dependent and socially inferior, wives could do nothing but have a false ignorance because “The best thing a girl [could] be in this world [was] a beautiful little fool” (The Great Gatsby). Daisy had the role of the average wife who, at this time, was bound under her husband. It was socially unacceptable for a wife to leave her husband for another man and so when Tom found out about Daisy and Gatsby’s affair, he was outraged. Daisy showed readers the complications that ensued when a wife stepped out of her “place.” On the other hand, Myrtle was the mistress of Tom and the unfortunate instigator of disastrous events. She represented the “other woman” composite that, like in the actually society, almost always broke apart marriages. These two characters in Fitzgerald’s work clearly depicted the flawed roles of females in the early, twentieth century. As well, the way they were treated represented the start of the downfall of loyalty and honesty in husbands during this time period.
Similar to The Great Gatsby, “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller clearly portrayed the two roles of females and the diminishing qualities of honesty and loyalty. Set in the late 1940s, this play widened the gap between the day-to-day housewife figure and the mistress. In the play, Willy Loman was an unsuccessful businessman that compulsively lied to cover up his constant failures. After having dedicated most of his life to his career, Willy turned up with nothing. Yet his wife, Linda Loman, stood by him. She was perceived as an ideal wife, having represented the female that all men would have wanted by their side. She was loyal to her husband, carefully tended to the household, did as she was told, knew her place, and at every point in the play she did what was expected of her without question. Yet infidelity was still a problem in the twentieth century and no story depicting the truth of that time would be complete without an affair. During flashback scenes, the audience is told of another woman that...

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