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– Mysogyny Essay, Research Paper

Faulkner s Women

Long have women in classic literature been portrayed as weak and submissive male playthings who lead futile and meaningless lives. William Faulkner s Light In August, the story of an abandoned child plagued by sexuality and women, overflows with female characters who aid the reader in delving into both this traditional view of women, and Faulkner s own personal views. Laden with these women, who play the role of stepmothers, grandmothers, and lovers; each woman plays an important contributory roll by feeding the flame of Faulkner s view. Far from straying from the stereotypical outlook on women, Faulkner not only flaunts but also embraces this misogynistic view.

Faulkner characterizes women as weak and simple who must please men s sexual desires. One of the first female characters met in the story, Miss Atkins, a dietitian at the orphanage in which Joe Christmas lives, adheres to the stereotype. Miss Atkins, against her wishes, submits to the desires of a male co-worker who wishes to have sex with her. The event takes place amidst silent cries of No, Charley! Charley Please! Please Charley! (121). Portrayed as a whore, Miss Atkins brings forth the developing theme of misogyny in the novel. This event also acts as the catalyst for Christmas lifelong discomfort and anger towards women. Faulkner forces him to experience this disturbing event, while hidden behind a curtain, at the tender age of 5. Two other influential women Lena Grove, a girl who has run away from home to look for the father of her child, and Millie, the mother of Joe Christmas, also exemplify Faulkner s view that women, being weak and na ve creatures, allow themselves to be used and abused to satisfy men s sexual nature and desires. Both women, scandalously impregnated out-of-wedlock, succumb to the men they love who completely disrespect them. Doc Hines, Millie s father, uses words, which in reality belong to Faulkner, summing up his view of these women: Bitchery and abomination! (361). Lena, whose bastard child was abandoned by its father before being born, and Millie, who died in labor while giving birth to a hated bastard child, symbolize the role of the stereotypical brainless woman in the life of men that of a sexual plaything, who, after the fun, hope to be loved and taken care of only to realize that they have been abandoned. These three women represent only a slice of the misogynistic view that Faulkner puts forth in this novel.

Faulkner adds another aspect to his view of the stereotypical woman by proving the emptiness of women s life through various female characters. To begin, Mrs. Hines, the mother of Millie, becomes insane because of her lost grandson. In other words, she has to live for a man. Her life and head, with constant thoughts of her lost grandson after losing him, become empty and meaningless. Also, the wife of Reverend Gail Hightower lives a barren and futile life. Unhappy with her own husband, she travels to Memphis to stay with her lover. Faulkner, portraying this woman s life as only that of meaninglessness and sin, ends her role in the novel by having her thrown to her death out of a window by her very own lover. She exemplifies Faulkner s view that women exist for men s pleasure. Her only escape from her monotonous life is to betray her husband and have sex with another man who eventually, when he has gotten all he wants from her, literally gets rids herself of her by murder. Continuing with this theme, Faulkner introduces a character that epitomizes the barrenness and pointlessness of women and their lives. Joanna Burden, the daughter of a family of Northern abolitionists, lives in seclusion, as an outcast in the pro-slavery South. She lives as a frantic and hysterical old maid whom Joe Christmas uses strictly to please his sexual desires. Christmas, [having] nothing in his nature of reticence or of chivalry toward women, (361) beats and eventually murders her. Joanna Burden s death, brought on by her own stupidity for trying to demand that the heretical and blasphemous Christmas undergo a religious conversion, receives what Faulkner sees as the punishment she justly deserves. Joanna Burden s life ends just as it has been her entire life empty and meaningless. Faulkner essentially places the deaths of these three women, one mental and two physical deaths, on the women themselves by justifying that they deserve nothing more because of their empty lives.

Faulkner gives the third and final example of his misogynistic outlook through the most innocent and likeable characters qualities which turn a female character into yet another dim-witted and na ve woman. Lena Grove, the supposedly strong and independent woman and soon-to-be mother, belies her outward appearance. Although she claims to be on her own, she only truly survives by depending on the support of men. Faulkner portrays her survival as dependent not on her own strength and independence but rather on the kindheartedness of men that allows her to remain alive. According to Faulkner, There have been good women who were martyrs to brutes But what woman, good or bad, has ever suffered from any brute as men have suffered from the good of women? (316). By turning even the most lovable female characters into helpless or harmful women, Faulkner completes the expression of his misogynistic view. Mrs. McEachern, the final note-worthy female character, the most kindhearted woman in the novel, smothers Joe Christmas with love, and becomes the most bitterly hated of all women to have come into Joe s life. He hates her intrusion into his life through attempts to make [him] cry (show emotion). Finally, Faulkner later goes on to assert, through the commentary of a furniture salesman, that women bring men down: Any soldier can be killed by the enemy in the heat of battle, by a weapon approved by the arbiters and rule-makers of warfare. Or by a woman in the bedroom (485). Despite the fact that the novel, page after page, depicts men s abuse towards women, Faulkner arrogantly asserts that women do not suffer at the hands of men, but instead, men suffer because of women.

The author of Light in August clearly portrays women as objects to be used for mothering, sex, and service. Faulkner relegates them to the kitchen or on their backs, for they can serve no other purpose in life. Although these accusations may be harsh, through the textual analysis of this book, one can conclude that Faulkner is a misogynist. Although today s works of literature, and society in general, have come to give more positive characteristics to women, far too many examples of sexism and misogyny exist.


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