The Stepford Wives Essay
The Stepford Wives
The greatest ‘gift’ of materialistic civilization strengthened by industrial and internet revolutions are, is to isolate the personality of the human being. The unusual pace of life may dominate and excite one’s external life but internally one is being pushed into a shell. Mechanical devices and electrical gadgets have taken over the authentic joy of life and they have become one’s mute, joyless friends. The problem of Joanne Eberhart who has just arrived to settle in her new home at Stepford with her family, is why she fails to click with the local women, though professionally she is a photographer, and perfect in the art of clicking!
Stepford women here have peculiar time-budgets. They have no time for others, unwilling to socialize at the minimal level like sharing a cup of coffee, leave aside the chat, which is an important feminine virtue. They are self-centered and are engrossed in the domestic chores. She succeeds in making friendship with just one individual, Bobbie and they consider themselves to be the only liberated pair of women. Bur when the abrupt change erupts in Bobbi, she too goes the Stepford Wives’ mode, Jonne is rattled. She is afraid of retaining her own freedom. What was the hidden truth behind the scientific uniformity of submissive behavior of the women of Stepford and why they accepted the mechanical ‘enslavement’ of their individuality by the men folk?
Women choosing to bake cakes and happy to remain as the doting wives! Not interested in chasing successful careers and stand shoulder to shoulder with men-counterparts in achievements and sharing secular responsibilities! Incredible! Do men have vested interest in turning women into robots? Jonne came with her husband and two children to settle quietly in countryside, to be away from the hustle and bustle of the American fast city life, but she did not expect it to be that quiet! She being an ambitious, creative woman full of enthusiasm, the subdued atmosphere at Stepford tormented her.
Her efforts and initiative to secure friends did not fructify, she was sorry to find work-addicted wives, uniformly loved and obedient to their husbands. Why should they love their husbands to that extent? Their courtesy was amazing. Jonne quickly realizes that Stepford is not the place she would like to live in. With the scenic beauty of the town as such she has no complains, but what astounds her is the too simple behavior of the women to make matters too complex for her. Women do household work, but not to the extent of what the Stepford women did. To remain confined within the four walls of the house was their passion and mission of life.
They did the house hold work impeccably dressed, as if they are out to move to a party within some seconds. To compound her confusion, her two like-minded friends Charmaine Wimperis and Bobbie Markowe had almost identical bouncy boobs! Jonne is totally puzzled by women looking like machine-made identical gowns—their behavior controlled by some remote push-buttons.
Her attempts to socialize with them failed. She extends a cordial invitation to Mrs. Poobah, who declines and the reason given by her is that she needs to wax the house floors at night! And Ted Van Sant behaves unwomanly—she is in the Men’s Association, watching movies, playing poker, and engaging in all such activities that normally come under the domain of men!
Jonne initiates a sort of a campaign to bring about the changes in the women, gives them the wake-up call, makes sincere efforts to boost their morale, but her initiatives end up in disappointment. ‘When the fox could not reach at the grapes did he not say that the grapes are sour? Jonne turns somewhat cynical, but would not give up.
She is convinced about the hidden agenda of the town’s Men’s association to change all wives into submissive individuals. She believes that behind the smiling faces, the women of Stepford hide something shocking! She fears for the erosion of her own strength and personality. Levin creates a story about the private “horrors” of the Stepford women. They live through that silent horror through every day of their lives but are unwilling to acknowledge it due to strange reasons.
The scientists have crossed he moon and out to beat the stars! The leaders and politicians here on Planet earth are unable to solve the problem of fuel and drinking water! If these problems are to be carried forward to the moon, what is the use of going to face the shortages there as well! But science fiction belongs to the world of imaginings and not the secular realities. It is, inevitably an American genre. The expansion of the 20th Century America is comparable to the octopus-growing in all directions. It has many confusing destinations and therefore it has almost become directionless and destination less! Joanne came to Stepford to achieve something for herself, her family and perhaps with the intention to give something to this county. She is disappointed in both the areas.
The scientific detachment exhibited by the Stepford wives is too much for her to stomach. The depictions in the novel are a useful social commentary. This is America- the super fast pace of life in the metropolitan cities and absolute calm and prevails in counties like Stepford. Is Jonne envious of the happiness of the Stepford women have found, and the fact that she is not able to devote time to her family? The two-career marriages have proved to be perilous to the society on more than one count. Spouses have no time for each other; the equal-status concept has brought forth several imbalances in the society. They say, marriage is like a fort; those who are in wish to get out; those who are out wish to get in.
The life of career women and homemakers is like the double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. The career woman feels guilty about her helplessness about not being able to afford more time to family and children in particular and the homemakers are envious of the lifestyles of career women, the so-called comforts that they enjoy. Women need to blame themselves for the sad juncture they have willingly have brought them in, and they have totally surrendered to the glamour of science like augmenting their breasts –to attract whom? Men of course! Why this false sense of beauty!
It is the same old story through the Ages. It is about Him and Her! Many women lib activists even today see men as their enemies and they should be in permanent war with the men folk. Men strongly feel that American women have lost their femininity. But there are many families where the husband and wife live with the heart afire with the flame of love. Ira Levin should love to see such a generation forthcoming in large numbers. The story of the novel as well as the movie relate to the fictional town Stepford. The standard of life and the standard of living of the town, however, are similar to the modern American townships.
Can the wives even in the small towns be that docile and mindless as to totally neglect their individuality? That may not be true but that serves the purpose of Ira Levin’s genre of literature, which veers more and more around science, as the story progresses. Jonne’s husband, in an effort to alley her fears about the futile efforts to change the women of Stepford, joins the local men’s club to get at the realities there as to how men are able to exercise such strong influence on their wives. Soon, he realizes that the Club is the shadow Government of Stepford, and it strongly and secretly interferes in the lives of women so as to make them the virtual tools in the hands of male fraternity. It obliterates their individuality totally.
The story now surrenders totally to science. Jonne is horrified to realize that Stepford wives are in reality look-alike gynoids, secretly manufactured at the men’s club. She investigates the matter in detail in the records of the library as to the pasts of husbands and wives and is shocked to learn that some of the women were achievers once, and some men were knowledgeable engineers and scientists with capability to create such life-like robots!
Now, that is too much for Jonne to stomach. She suddenly wonders whether she is in a ghost-town, and makes an attempt to flee from Stepford. She also warns Ruthanne, mother of the first black family to settle in the town. The men of the city catch hold of her and try to convince her that she is mistaken. They lead her to her former best friend Bobbie, with the promise that she will dissect herself to bleed to prove that she is a human being. The progress of the mysteries of science in the story does not stop here. Ultimately, Jonne meets the same fate as that of other Stepford wives and Ruthanne is most likely the next candidate of this robot experiment.
The technological advance has battered the civilization in America. In some areas, it is damaged beyond repair. The fears of uncertainty have enveloped the lives of people. The contents of the daily newspapers are mostly the horror stories. The authors with fertile imagination get enough raw materials in every genre-and the genre of science mostly appeals to the combustible younger generation. They enjoy taking plunge into the unknown and impossible adventures. The fantastic elements related to technology, with reality base, and mostly contents of the world of imagination have become the accepted genre of literature in America.
Therefore, you find such rapid-fire novels, movies, TV scripts and comic books arrive like avalanches in the American market. The uniqueness of the Stepford Wives by Ira Levin is that it blends the harsh realities of the materialistic American life, with the super-fast developing world of science. This book is hailed as the classic psychological/science fiction thriller. The reader’s emotions are provoked on one count or the other, throughout the novel. Everyone seems to agree that there is some serious mal-functioning in the American society, though no one knows the precise reasons and the point from where the corrective measures need to be initiated.
Levin, Ira: The Stepford Wives
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Film Tie-in Ed edition (19 Jul 2004)
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 March 2017
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