It has been said that the inner workings of a woman’s mind is truly an enigma, and I tend to agree. At any point, women’s hopes, dreams, silent sufferings, internal battles, and undisclosed desires may play a role in how they live their lives and do the things they do. In addition to those aspects of the complicated state of being a woman, becoming a mother can completely change a woman’s viewpoint on many things, as it has for me. Through the author’s use of setting, symbolism, and dynamic characters, the allegorical nature of certain stories in literature give insight on the plight of women - which may be interpreted differently by different people. Myself, as a woman and a mother can empathize with the fictional yet seemingly realistic,“round” female characters in the stories The Shawl, A Jury of Her Peers, The Worn Path and Two Kinds, whereas a woman who is not a mother, or a man might not form the same type of empathy.
In The Shawl, Rosa is driven by the undeniable force that is maternal love, and attempts to hide Magda for as long as she can, to protect her daughter from peril. Even though Rosa is aware she will suffer an inevitable grim fate, as it says in the story “Rosa knew Magda was going to die very soon” (267), she continues to try to shelter her child in the shawl. The shawl is symbol of the encompassing quality of a mother’s love and how the lack of it can have tragic consequences. The descriptive details of the setting, along with the established character traits, such as Magda’s silent suffering from lice
infestation, or how the characters learn to pacify their starvation with “drink(ing) the taste of a finger in one’s mouth” (267) make the story heart wrenching to imagine having to experience such horrific circumstances along with my child. Someone who is not a mother might not understand Rosa’s actions, they might not realize why Rosa feels an instinctual compulsion to protect her helpless offspring that goes beyond comprehension, and see her efforts as foolish and pointless. Rosa, at one point, even contemplates giving up her daughter to a stranger along the road, willing to sacrifice her own heartache for the well-being of her daughter. As a mother, I can understand Rosa’s plight, as there are no lengths I wouldn’t go to to protect my children, no matter what.
The plight of Phoenix in A Worn Path is similar to that of Rosa’s in The Shawl. She fights against the adversity of the setting out of love for her ailing grandson. She is decrepit, as the story states “she was very old and small”(114) and she has delusions which might indicate she may suffer from dementia, yet she continues on. The path she travels is strenuous, as it “ran uphill”, and at one point she has to “creep and crawl through a barbed wire fence”, yet she continues on (115). The other characters she encounters try to discourage her and pay her disrespect, yet she continues on. A reader of the story who is not a mother may see her efforts as...