In these two works the authors invite us to look closely at ‘a woman’s place’ in society. In this essay I am going to look at and discuss the ways in which they present the views of women and the expectations of the society in which they live.
The reason why I have chosen to compare these two pieces of work is that they both have a similar message to put across. The message is about a woman’s place and where it should be. Both of the books put women in a lower social standing to men. The pieces of work are not written in the same form but what ever form the writing takes we will be able to find similarities in the message the writers want to express.
The writers have a very similar theme but they chose different ways to express it. In ‘A view from a bridge’ Arthur Miller shows Beatrice’s struggle with Eddie to let Catherine, their niece, become independent. In ‘The Son’s Veto’ Thomas Hardy shows the control of a son over his mother, Sophy and her inability to do anything to pursue her feelings towards Sam, a man of lower social standing.
The two main female characters in Arthur Miller’s ‘A view from a bridge’ are Beatrice and Catherine. At the start of the book Catherine and Beatrice both have a deep respect and love for Eddie. The only way that their relationships are different is in the nature of their dependence. Beatrice is Eddie’s wife and is dependent on him for her living, whereas Catherine is Eddie’s niece and is only being looked after since both of her parents died when she was young. Eddie is looking after her and paying for her whilst she is growing up and going through education until she is independent.
At this point Eddie has control over Beatrice and Catherine but as the story progresses, and with the introduction of ‘Rodolfo’, Catherine begins to loose her respect for Eddie and consequently Eddie begins to loose his control over her. Catherine and Beatrice have a large enough age gap to have slightly different social standings. Beatrice is of an era when women were only given basic education, and then were expected to do manual work or raise a family and become a housewife whilst the husband provided for all of the needs of the family. Catherine’s generation was slightly different in that they were more likely to go on to further education and then work.
This may not have included the highly skilled jobs, such as doctors, but at least they were not so completely dependant on a husband. Beatrice seems a little wiser than Catherine in the way that she can see through Eddie and can guess what he is thinking. She can see what is going to happen but she is so naï¿½ve as to believe she can change the outcome. Catherine believes that Beatrice is bitter in the way that she is trying to get Catherine to see Eddie’s true intentions. Catherine cannot understand why Beatrice is disrespectful towards Eddie, ‘the man of the house’.
Sophy, in the story ‘The Son’s Veto’, has a very different living status. She is dependant on her dead husband’s will, but in a similar way to Beatrice who answers to and obeys Eddie, Sophy obeys her son. However, Sophy can’t see that the only reason why her son wants her to stay with their family and not to remarry because, if she did leave to marry another man it, would ruin his reputation and his social standing. The other way in which I think that Sophy, Beatrice and Catherine are similar is that all three come from a working class background. Sophy worked in a vicarage as a maid and Catherine and Beatrice’s livelihood came from Eddie working on the docks.
The nineteenth century woman is Sophy in Thomas Hardys ‘The Son’s Veto’. In this time there were a lot of things that women weren’t aloud to do. Some of them were written laws and some social laws, there were things that the lady just ‘wasn’t seen to do’, wasn’t befitting to a lady. This is displayed in the story after Sophy has been widowed and is talking about remarrying. She is thinking of remarrying to a grocery store owner called Sam. This was unacceptable, as she would be marrying down a class. This was not normal to that time, where there were very clear barriers between social classes. Her son ‘ hoped his step father would be a gentleman’.
This is what he believed and it meant a lot to him. He made his feelings very clear when he said ‘I am ashamed of you! It will ruin me! A miserable bore! A churl! A clown! It will degrade me in the eyes of all the gentleman of England!’ Because Sophy didn’t have her son’s blessing she could not leave. He had control of all the finances that her late husband left to them to live on. It is a different situation for the woman in ‘A view from the bridge’, Catherine and Beatrice. At that time there was an organisation called ‘NOW’. This movement was oppressed by the male dominated social structure as a whole, which they saw as pervaded by sexism, despite legal concession towards equality of the sexes.
In this period the womens’ movement had been critical of the use of women as sex objects in advertising, and had also opposed their indoctrination into passive and accommodating roles within the family and society in general. I believe that Beatrice is too old and set in her ways to get deeply involved in womens’ rights. She understands that women should have equal rights but takes the easy option and accepts where she is and what she is.
This is why Beatrice and Sophy are similar because they both only had little or no education and now rely completely on their husband funds. All they have to do in return is to keep a clean house, cook and raise the children. Eddie and Beatrice don’t have any children of their own but they have raised their niece Catherine as their own. Catherine is different to Sophy in that she has had a full education and will become financially independent. Sophy was expected to present herself as a lady whenever she was to be in the public eye. Sophy was also expected to do chores and raise children whilst they were home from boarding school.
This was all that was expected of a woman of her time. Beatrice was also expected to dress smartly and conservatively. Catherine was a modern girl and dressed to impress. She was well educated and so was less dependant on getting a husband before her good looks left her. But there was still the male dominance that had some control over her. ‘Catherine, I don’t want to be a pest, but I’m telling you you’re walking wavy.’ ‘Listen, you been giving me the willies the way you walk down the street, I mean it.’ This shows the male dominance over protecting his woman.