Based on the novel, The Curse by Lee Su Ann, I have acquired an interesting theme from the many others that have been portrayed in the story. The theme is gender stereotyping, in which, involves unfair treatment upon the rights of a certain gender requiring them to act in a certain manner, where it is greatly influenced by culture and upbringing. There are a few unfortunate characters in the story who have been condemned to such discrimination and in this story; the female gender faces the dilemma of being subjected to gender stereotyping.
The first character is Siti, Puan Kamsiah’s 17 year old daughter. She is a student about in the course of taking her SPM but we have seen in the story where Siti monologues about having to ask a teacher at school to persuade her father to let sit for the exam. Traditionally, the female stereotypic role is to marry early, be obedient and submissive and Siti, like every other woman before her, is required to follow the customs and norms. This shows that in that society, women, in general, have no say in their lives especially for someone as young as Siti. Siti was also portrayed to have felt a sense of envy towards Azreen who was lucky enough to have furthered her studies overseas, in London, while she is still shaky on taking her SPM. Opinion provided, her father’s role in making decisions may well ruin the possibility of a bright future as mentioned in the book where Siti is actually a hard-working student who loves to study.
Secondly, the character Madhuri is the perfect depiction of how gender stereotyping may ruin someone’s life and in her case, it took away her life. Madhuri as portrayed in the novel is the perfect example of a woman who possesses the behaviour requirements and is considered innocent by the villagers through her soft spoken ways. She can teach Qu’ran lessons to the children of the village and she can cook very well as seen when Azreen’s mother asks for the porridge Madhuri made. Madhuri also obliges her father’s manipulative orders to marry Haji Ghani despite having the flutters for another. Additionally, Madhuri takes care of her parents even after her marriage to Haji Ghani.
As a reader, I have seen how this changed in the eyes of Azreen when she finds out the truth regarding her sister’s death and secret love affair to Asraf. Madhuri’s character takes a big leap in change and naturally becomes her facade to cover up for the forbidden affair that she had entangled herself into. She is no longer the perfect idol for women to follow and men to like and this contrast led to her demise. In my opinion, her naivety to confess her true heart led to the adulteration of her flawless personality which was perceived by the ignorant and self-righteous villagers. When her egoistic father discovered the truth, he had killed her in uncontrollable rage, not being able to accept his daughter loving other than her own husband.
Lastly, gender stereotyping is depicted throughout the novel, in the main character Azreen through the aspect of female behaviourism. This statement is further proven when Azreen’s school friends start to cast suspicious eyes towards her when she behaves unlady-like. She plays hockey with the boys and even “laughs like a bunch of hyenas” with them. To them, as a woman, Azreen is not expected to be tomboyish and hangs too closely with boys. She is also considered obstinate and rude by the villagers and her own parents when she chooses to speak her mind rather than remain silent which is against the norms of the villagers as shown in various occasions in the novel, namely, the bull incident where she takes the blame for Asraf out of loyalty in friendship. In my opinion, Azreen’s unladylike and outspoken behaviour has triggered a sense of discomfort among the people around her as she does behave in the stereotyped manner, where they perceive her as disrespecting the elderly.
People tend to be cast out when they don’t follow certain norms of a society. This is evident in the reasons that I have stated. In my opinion, Lee Su Ann has shown perfectly how narrow-minded thinking can lead to detrimental outcomes. These sorts of stereotypes can prove harmful; they can stifle individual expression and creativity, as well as hinder personal and professional growth.
In the sense of a woman having to marry and produce offspring, Puan Fatihah is seen as someone who has failed this. She is incapable of bearing her husband a child and always feels insecure about herself. This flaw renders her nearly useless in her husband’s eyes when she is unable to fulfill her duty as wife. I can understand her pain of insecurity as she looks into the mirror and see her unstoppable aging face. Meanwhile, Hj Ghani the insensitive husband marries another woman, Madhuri, who is by both men and women’s standards beautiful.
We have seen how much the villagers worship her flawless personality and beauty and Hj Ghani, despite a wise man, also falls for the stereotyped mind set. Pn Fatihah’s declining beauty has caused her to feel envy towards Madhuri and to be angry at her husband. However, it is not her fault, but rather, the fault of the villagers who use the subject of beauty to measure the worth of a woman. How sure you are that it was not Hj Ghani who is barren? Madhuri, the second wife, also did not produce a child for him before her untimely death.