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Change is the root of life, inevitably enveloping everyone. Playing upon change, progress is forward-thinking movement. Proceeding the era of Reconstruction of the South, many major changes were made to everyday life. Gender roles, for both sexes, particularly saw a major turnaround as Modernism made its place in history after World War I. The stories “Editha” by William Dean Howells and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemmingway show the contrast of gender-oriented behavior between the generations.
Women of each period were displayed and treated in different manners.
In “Editha,” George’s fiancé, Editha, has her easily stirred feelings hurt by his apprehension and unwillingness to go to war throughout the whole beginning of the story. Women were seen as dainty creatures whose “duplex of emotions” (Howells 308) must be pandered to, as George does. However, Harry from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” almost entirely disregards Helen’s feelings. When speaking to her, he says, “Love is a dunghill…. And I’m the cock that gets on it to crow” (Hemmingway 1025).
George goes to war as an act of love for Editha to appease her; Harry cannot be bothered with acting very civil with Helen and outright enjoys quarrelling with her (Hemmingway 1021). Not a single malice word escapes from George, whereas Harry’s lack of compassion provides a stark contrast when he says to Helen, “You bitch…. You rich bitch” (Hemmingway 1025). The behavior of men towards the women in the two stories displays how the view of women began to develop into a different fashion.
Women began to no longer be gratified by compelled men, especially since they were growing independence.
Acts previously scandalous to do or talk about became generally more accepted. To illustrate, men’s faithfulness to women and many traditional sexual values, including women’s, began to breakdown. George does not take any suitors in his short time at war. Editha remains devoted to George during his absence and even still once widowed. Notwithstanding the previous generation’s etiquette to partner adherence, Helen, who “had been married” (Hemmingway 1027), took multiple “lovers” preceding her late husband (Hemingway 1027).
Her taking lovers shows a much more secular view of fornication, and Harry still looks at her as a “…nice woman” (Hemmingway 1027), which reinforces the breaking down of traditional values. Harry, too, had taken on many women (Hemmingway 1029). Harry also writes to another woman whom he loved, despite being married (Hemmingway 1029-1030). Neither George nor Helen have a mentioned past of what was then considered as disgraceful baggage; they are, as far as the reader knows, pure. Scandalous acts certainly became better approved of by society, which was an overall change for both gender roles.
The traditional men’s view of beauty of women saw a definite secular change. Women were seen something like that of a piece of art. Progressing forward, the view of women shifted towards worldly ways, seeing them more as humans and sexualized. Editha only has one physical description from Georgea romantic one: “What a gorgeous flower you are, with your color painted out by the white moonshine! Let me hold you under my chin…you tiger-lily” (Howells 312)! Contrastingly, Harry describes Helen in a much less charming tone. “She was a damned nice woman too. He would as soon be in bed with her as any one; rather with her, because she was richer… appreciative, and… she never made scenes” (Hemmingway 1027).
Harry gives an even coarser characterization of another woman whom he engages with, stating, “…[We] went to bed and she felt as over-ripe as she looked but smoother, rose-petal, syrupy, smooth-bellied, big breasted, and needed no pillow under her buttocks…” (Hemmingway 1029). The viewed appearance of women certainly began to change, transferring to a more secular mode of thinking.
There is a stark contrast between how the two generations handled gender-oriented behavior, and it is apparent between “Editha” by William Dean Howells and Ernest Hemmingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Both genders progressed to much more openness in all senses. From how women began to be treated, sexuality becoming more prevalent, to how women were viewed, change engulfed everyone. Daily life is enveloped by change, and the progress of which change brings will continue ceaselessly.
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