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English literature exam paper Essay

•How does the writer present her thoughts and feeling about the struggle for identity? •How far is the extract similar to and different from your wider reading about the struggle for identity in modern literature? You should consider the writers’ choices of form, structure and language as well as subject matter.

Betty Friedan has started her speech with two rhetorical questions, “Am I saying that women have to be liberated from men? That men are the enemy?” She is encouraging her audience to think about what her feelings are exactly. She quickly answers her own question, “No.” Within the first two sentences she has already got her audience to think about her views and their response to that. This was a good way to get her audience intrigued about the content of the rest of her speech. Her first paragraph is a basic overview of her feelings on the modern’s women’s movement. This way she can develop her points further in the rest of her speech. Throughout her speech, Friedan uses very negative language to describe men and their actions.

For example, forced, suppressed, brutal etc. This shows that she has very negative views towards men and isn’t afraid to share this. She uses this pessimistic language to show how men have been holding back women and their struggle for identity. She says “men are going to bear the guilty burden of the passive destiny they have forced upon women,” The word forced is quite a harsh and aggressive word and this shows how she feel women have been treated by the other sex. She uses the metaphor of men and women being half human because of certain things holding them aback. For example, “Men are not allowed to cry.” And “as women are only half-human, until we can go this next step forward.” This shows that women can’t feel whole or complete until she is equal with men. The metaphor is carried on in the last paragraph but that when women are finally “allowed to become full people” that the next generations will live in a better world.

The word “allowed” suggest that she feels women are being suppressed by men or another controlling factor. Friedan says in the last paragraph “relate to each other in terms of all of the possible dimensions of our personalities – male and female, as comrades, as colleagues, as friends, as lovers.” Firstly she shows that they are separate as she disconnects by separating the genders, “male and female”. However, she then describes both the male and female population together “as comrades”. The word “comrades” have military connotations. This shows that men and women could work together in something that is seen as so masculine as the army. She then describes them “as colleagues”. This follows on from being comrades. If they can work together efficiently together in the military then they can handle working together in everyday jobs as equals.

The effect of the whole list is that they are different (different genders) but are equal. She shows the struggle that women face in everyday life, “hate and jealousy and buried resentment and hypocrisies,” These words all help to show how negatively the way women are being treated is seen. Friedan then goes on to explain what life will be after men have learnt to except that women are people to, “there will be a whole new sense of love that will make what we call love on Valentine’s Day look very pallid.” There is two ways to look at this. Firstly, Valentine’s Day is meant to be the one day in the year where you show how much you love someone, this can show how much gaining an identity means to the women and what it will do to the world. However, one could argue that Valentine’s Day is only one day a year and so the changes could only be semi permanent.

The whole speech from Betty Friedan is all about women’s struggle for identity. In Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, there are subtle hints about the same issue. For example, at the end of Act One Biff and Happy are talking to Willy about getting some money and starting up a business together, Linda is also in the room. Linda tries to speak, “Maybe things are beginning to –“ and Will ironically interrupts her and says “Stop interrupting,” Throughout the play Willy is putting Linda down even though she is the only person in the family that is really concerned about Willy’s health. However, we can see that in the play Willy represents the older generations views on women and Biff has the more modern and just outlook on it which represents the younger generation.

This is shown again at the end of Act One. Linda starts to speak again and Willy interrupts her as he has done previously however this time Biff tells Willy “Don’t yell at her pop, will ya?” this shows how the women’s battle for identity has been paying off as the younger generations are starting to accept that this isn’t right. Betty Friedan foreshadows this in her speech when she says “children be born and brought up with more love and responsibility than today,” this shows what the modern population is going to grow up around. However, in Death of a Salesman we get the impression that Linda is essentially a housewife and is there to look after her family, mainly Willy, and to do domestic jobs around the house.

This is fundamentally a typical role of women of the time. However, Betty Friedan seems to be saying that women are being active about changing the oppression that they are under. This difference in attitudes however could be to do with the age of the women and the modernity of them. For example the struggle for identity in the modern era can be different for different people. Because Linda is part of the older, less modern generation she is less likely to want to bring about change whereas Betty Friedan and the women she is talking about have more modern and equal views.


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