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Women's Roles Then And Now Essay

1093 words - 4 pages

Women's Roles Then and Now

Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘the times they are a-changin', I beg to differ. The 1960's were defiantly a time of dramatic change with the introduction of the women's liberation movement. But has all that much changed? Are all western women really liberated or are they simply being told so and believing every word, like the good little housewives men want them to be?

A comparison between the Elizabethan era view of women through a ramble in St. James's Park with the more contemporary writing of The Prize-Giving to show how the patriarchal view of women hasn't changed as they continue to be seen as inferior and objects of sexual desire thus promoting men as superior.

Though the subject of both John Wilmot's "A Ramble in St. James's Park" and Gwen Harwood's "Prize-Giving" is women, they both written with different tones, diction, and form which emphasize the different social settings and era's exposed through poetry.

Hardwood's poem is about a pompous and conceited professor Eisenbart (dominating male) who is invited to a prize giving ceremony at an all girls' school (subservient female). Immediately we see the masculine figure in the poem in a position of superiority over the female mass, consisting of students and the headmistress who is described as inferior to him in the line ‘the Head in humbler black flapped round and steered/her guest, superb in silk and fur'. He is described in a way to have some form of grandeur over the women in attendance through ‘When he appeared / the girls whirred with an insect nervousness' and also in a more underlying tone through ‘He shook / Indifferently a host of virgin hands.' These lines establish his superiority and also expose the type of society in which Harwood was living, in Australia in the 1920's.

"He shook Indifferently a host of virgin hands"

The central female character is that of the ‘the girl with titian hair', she is introduced to the audience in a manner contrary the ideals of ‘sugar and spice' through the line, "the girl with titian hair stood up, / hitched at a stocking, winked at nearby friends" and appears more to take the role of cheeky and arrogantly intelligent. The poem goes on to say "He took her hand, and felt its voltage fling his hold". This can be interpreted to mean the underlying sexual intrigue cleverly disguised as a challenge of intellectual superiority.

Although the poem does go on to say he "suffered her strange eyes, against reason dark", to suffer he strange eyes in a manner of tension and reason dark to mean the socially unacceptability of his thoughts. The full line is "He took/her hand, and felt its voltage fling his hold/from his calm age and power; suffered her strange /eyes, against reason dark". This particular line can be scrutinized from a few different perceptions, although if it were viewed with gender driven domination in mind, it exposes how the older male assumes himself dominant and how also the temptation of an...

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