Female characters Essay
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a novel published in 2003 which tells the story of Amir, a young Afghan boy with a traumatic past, a guilty conscience, a war-stricken homeland and a broken future. The Kite Runner explores many different issues throughout the novel; one such issue is the representation of females. Females can be seen as “material goods”, and are often shown as marginalized, weak, demeaned, and subject to many double standards in todays society, and throughout earlier history.
The Kite Runner shows the idea of female representation through the development and construction of make and female characters, combined with the setting and culture in the novel. The idea of marginalized female representation is also shown in other texts such as A Lot to Learn, and Hamlet, all of which used character construction to portray these ideas. The Kite Runner portrays the idea of females as being marginalized in many different cases. There are only two females that have any backstory or focus in the book The Kite RunnerAmir’s wife Soraya, and Soraya’s mother.
Hassan’s wife is also mentioned briefly. The fact that women are not focused on, and barely mentioned in the novel also show that in Afghan culture, women do not play a large role, they simply blend into the background and do as they are told. Hassan’s wife, Farzana, is described as a ‘shy woman’, ‘courteous’, and spoke in a voice just ‘barely higher than a whisper’. It seems that she cooks, cleans, and does most of the basic housework. The fact that she is so shy, polite, and quiet shows how women have been brought up in this culture.
Farzana has been brought up to obey men, and to speak only when spoken to, to be polite and courteous, and to always be virtuous. The only time Farzana stood up for herself, and her family, was when Hassan was shot by the Taliban. She ‘came screaming and attacked them’ and the Taliban promptly shot her. The fact that the men could so easily and quickly shoot a woman, who was simply defending her house and family, shows again the way that women may be seen as almost worthless in the Afghan society. Soraya Taheri, Amir’s wife, on the other hand, was the complete opposite of Farzana.
When we first meet Soraya, she is described as a ‘slim-hipped beauty’, ‘decent’, ‘hardworking and kind’, with a ‘princess-like’ beauty to her, and she speaks with confidence, which is unlike all of the other Afghan women described in the story. Soraya has a past that she, and everyone around her, is ashamed of. After arriving in America, Soraya saw the care-free environment, the way that women were accepted, and Soraya realized that maybe she herself could have independence too. Soraya ran away to Virginia at the age of 18; she was ‘rebellious’, she felt that she should be allowed to be independent.
When she returns to her family and moves to California, the rumours spread like wildfire. All of the Afghanis here about Soraya’s shameful act, and everywhere she goes, whispers follow her. No suitable suitors appear at her doorstep, and no one forgets her ‘mistake’. ‘Its so fucking unfair’, she says, and it really is. A double standard in this society, where the men can do whatever they please and ‘no one does a god damn thing’, and when a woman does something of the same nature, they are shunned. There is a small amount of talk about Baba’s wife, who died giving birth to Amir.
The Afghan community claimed that Baba would never be able to marry a woman like her; she was virtuous, clever, studying at university, and to to pit all off, she was of royal blood. Baba finally does marry this woman though, and refers to her as his ‘princess’. The way that this marriage is described accentuates the idea that men want women the way they would want material goods. The marriages are described almost as if the men are simply picking an object, and showing said object off to the world. Gertrude is seen as unequal to the the almost all-male cast.
Gertrude is a female character from Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet. The play is set in Denmark, early 14th century, and tells the story of a young prince, Hamlet, who gets a visit from his dead father’s ghost, and realizes that not all is right in the state of Denmark. Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother, and the queen of Denmark. After the death of her husband King Hamlet, Gertrude quickly remarries to the King’s brother Claudius. Hamlet depicts this sudden remarriage as betrayal, unfaithfulness, and the breaking of ‘sacred vows’.
He feels disgusted that his mother would grieve so little, and move on so fast, and hatred for his mother beings to grow. The play Hamlet has been created so that we, as readers, see Hamlet’s point of view, but we do not see the way that the other characters think. I believe that this sudden remarriage was not simply because Gertrude was seduced, but because Gertrude could not hold her position of “power” without a male by her side. If we had Gertrude’s side of the story, I think we would realize that there were other motives to Gertrude’s marriage to Claudius.
Gertrude could not run the state of Denmark, or even the castle, without a man in power with her; in the time Hamlet was set in, women were often demeaned, and were never seen as equals. To keep the state functioning as a whole, Gertrude realized she would need a new king to rule. Gertrude also may have realized how easy it would be for another man to take advantage; if they controlled Gertrude, they could control the state. Her marriage to Claudius at least guaranteed that the state was run by someone she trusted and could see as a ruler.
None of these ideas were explicitly stated, because Gertrude was never really given a chance to defend herself and her actions, due to Hamlet being the focus of the story. ‘Frailty, thy name is woman’, Hamlet says, referring to poor Gertrude. He refers to the way that Gertrude was moulded so quickly to another’s will, the way her confidence faltered so soon, and how weak Gertrude really was. Hamlet is a character that has no respect for women. He holds a grudge against his mother, and as the play progresses, these dark feelings that he feels towards his mother grow stronger.
Hamlet starts to feel so strongly to his mother ‘betraying’ him, that he starts to apply this idea to all women, even weak Ophelia. He seems to be under the impression that, though women are frail, weak, and delicate, all women deceive and take part in treachery. He does love Ophelia, but in the end, he feels that Ophelia would betray him, as all women do. He is applying a stereotype to all women, saying that they are will of weak and physical being, and treacherous at heart. Ophelia is also doted on quite a lot by her father and brother.
Both men lecture Ophelia about staying virtuous, warning her not to ‘lose her heart’, but this is, again, a double standard. Laertes especially is being quite the hypocrite, since he, as a young man, would have been messing around with many young girls, and not had it held against him since it was socially accepted for men. Polonius also lectures Ophelia to keep her chastity, and talks to her as one would talk to a young child. He depicts Ophelia as being weak, innocent, nothing more than a child, and often gloats to the King Claudius about how ‘dutiful’ and ‘obedient’ Ophelia is as a daughter, as if she has no will of her own.
He seems to be demeaning her, without even consciously meaning to, and Ophelia takes no offense to it; in that day and age, girls were simply brought up to accept it. ‘The object Ophelia’, Hamlet refers to Ophelia at one point. He says this the way he would say ‘the object of his affections’. He seems to be referring, yet again, to material goods, to objects, as if Ophelia is simply another prize he can add to his trophy cabinet. He also uses a great deal of sexual innuendos when around Ophelia, but neither Ophelia or any other members of the court find it offensive or out of context.
He lays his head upon her lap and whispers comments that are obviously making her uncomfortable, but Ophelia never objects, simply because it was normal for women to be taken advantage of. Just like Ophelia being referred to as an object, the short story A Lot to Learn depicts an innocent girl as yet another material good. A Lot to Learn is a story about Ned Quinn, a scientist that has created the Materializer, a large machine that can create anything at the push of a button. The story tells the tale of Ned experimenting with the machine, and wishing for a girl.
Before Ned mutters the word ‘girl’, he wishes for ‘money’, then a ‘martini’, then ‘beer’. These are two stereotypical goods that a person would probably wish for if he could have anything; money and alcohol. When Ned wishes for this girl, after wishing for two in-demand material goods, he seems to be sending a subtle message that perhaps he sees women as nothing more than objects of desire, yet another material good instead of a sentient being. If his experiment was a success, Ned would most likely hold on to this girl the way one would hold onto a trophy; a record of his achievements, simply for memories sake.
The idea of being nothing more than an object is terribly demeaning, and another show of dominance from males. Women are very subtly discriminated and marginalized in this short story. As well as the idea of the girl being simply an object, Ned seems to be under the impression that this girl would obey him. Before wishing for a girl, Ned did not stop to think that maybe the girl would scream, or run in terror, or struggle; he simply assumed that the girl that appeared would obey. This is a show of Ned believing that women are weak – both physically and mentally.
This shows an immediate message about dominance, the way that Ned believes that this girl would do exactly as he wished. He seemed to be under the impression that because he was a man, he is strong, powerful, and has a sense of dignity and respect, therefor meaning that the woman that he expected to appear would simply obey. Ned seems to be very confident in himself and his invention. Though he is nervous as he wishes for each new object, he seems to be under the impression that everything will turn out fine. Ned comes across a slight hitch, however, when he mutters the word ‘girl’.
In our society today, the word ‘girl’ often refers to woman, not literally a girl or child. Its a misconception, just a word in our culture that has developed to mean something else from the original meaning. Ned obviously does not want the small, innocent child that appears in the machine, as he curses ‘Hell! ’. Referring to a woman as ‘girl’ is almost demeaning in a way. The fact that Ned wishes for a girl as well is slightly disturbing. Upon reading it, most people would immediately assume that Ned wants this girl for nefarious purposes, to fulfil a fantasy or something of that drift.
This is another symbol of the female representation being marginalized, shoved aside as the weaker gender. All of these different characters from these three stories easily show the idea of females being marginalized and disenfranchised. Characters such as Ned Quinn, Hamlet, and General Sahib are constructed to be dominant over the female characters. The settings and culture, when combined with these strong male characters, show the many double-standards that exist between females and males, and also show the idea of females being represented as trophy objects.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 July 2017
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