One are victims of the patriarchal society they

One of the greatest disparities about many classical writings is that women are often not given the platform they deserve as valued and intelligent characters who contain agency and opinions. Women are too frequently described as clichés and as one dimensional characters who are victims of the patriarchal society they were born into. Famous authors such as George Orwell and James Joyce describe the outward appearances of women more than they acknowledge the inner strength that lies within their female characters. They also fall into the common misgynistic pattern of oversexualizing their female characters or describing the women solely in terms of the men they interact with. In 1984 and Dubliners, by Orwell and Joyce respectively, women are portrayed as thoughtless victims who lack the ability to deeply care about others or control their own futures. This outdated portrayal of women is juxtaposed by more modern female authors’ women characters. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri portray females as the glue of the family, whose strength is inherited down for many generations. While these characters are also victimized by their society, Gyasi and Lahiri give their characters an inner fire as well. These characters contain both the agency to leave marriages that aren’t working and the intelligence to make astute observations about the world in which they live. The depictions of women in 1984 and Dubliners are filled with sexism, whereas the women in newer works, such as Homegoing and “A Temporary Matter”, are assertive and significant figures who are put on the pedestal that they deserve. In George Orwell’s 1984, misogyny runs rampant through its pages with vapid female characters who are completely demoralized to mean nothing in society. Orwell’s famous protagonist, Winston, states early in the book that “He disliked nearly all women, and especially the young and pretty ones. It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers?out of unorthodoxy.” (13) Winston clearly reveals in this passage that he believes women lack their own agency and instead simply follow the Party in a way that men do not. Winston views women as ignorant and submissive. In one of the first instances where the readers are introduced to the leading female character, Julia, she is portrayed as weak and in need of Winston’s help to get up after she fell. “She held out her free hand to him, and he helped her up. She had regained some of her colour, and appeared very much better.” (134) In this scene, she is immediately exposed to the reader as a character who is in need of a man to “feel much better” after a minor spill. Although Julia is the catalyst in the revolution of Winston’s mind against the party, she is shown as inferior and more fragile than Winston. When O’Brien asks Winston and Julia if they are prepared to never see each other again if it is in the best interest for the Brotherhood, Julia immediately interjects, being the weaker and more emotional role in the couple. “‘You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?’ ‘No!’ broke in Julia.” (218) Julia is described as a sexual object in the novel, whose only role in the Revolution is to risk her life in order to be promiscuous and please the party’s men. When Winston tries to talk to her about politics, she falls asleep and is unable to think about the Revolution on a grander scope like he is with his brilliant male mind. “If he persisted in talking of such subjects, she had a disconcerting habit of falling asleep. … Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. (197) Winston is able to forgive Julia for falling asleep because he assumes that women are inherently less intelligent than men, and is unsurprised that Julia is incapable of understanding it. Throughout 1984, Orwell stereotypes women as the weaker and more vulnerable sex who lack an important role in society. In James Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners, women are often portrayed as victims of their situations or as people whose only role in society is to fit the stereotype of mother or wife. In his story “Eveline,” Joyce depicts his protagonist as someone who embodies paralysis as a result of her silence and lack of agency. Eveline is described as a spectator on her own life, who observes but does not speak. She feels trapped in her current status in society, under the roof of her abusive father, and she believes that a man is the only person who can save her. Eveline dreams about marrying Frank, not because she loves him, but because perhaps he can save her. “She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her.” Eveline does not believe that she, as a woman, can bring herself up and out of her poor home life. At the end of the story, Eveline is completely consumed in her paralysis, unable to leave with Frank for a more hopeful future. As she stood on the dock, she looked “like a helpless animal,” which is a description that would never be used to describe a male. Joyce’s reduction of Eveline to a “helpless animal” shows how little intelligence she acts, and is instead acting upon her most basic instincts, which at that moment, were to stay on the dock. In “The Boarding House,” women are portrayed as sexual objects as well as the patriarchal structures to which they are bound. Joyce portrays one of the protagonists, Mrs. Mooney, as a controlling and dominant woman, but also as somewhat of a tyrant, inferring that women in power don’t know how to yield their power and can easily become oppressive leaders. Mrs. Mooney tries to pressure her daughter, Polly’s, lover, Mr. Doran, into marrying her. “To begin with she had all the weight of social opinion on her side: she was an outraged mother. She had allowed him to live beneath her roof, assuming that he was a man of honour, and he had simply abused her hospitality.” Mrs. Mooney uses her social status to her advantage and coerces Mr. Doran to marry Polly. Polly, the other protagonist, shows a more stereotypical description of women as flirtatious and brainless figures. Polly’s sole purpose in the story is to function as “eye candy” for the men who reside in her mother’s boarding house. Joyce describes Polly as someone with “light soft hair and a small full mouth,” which proves that he intended the reader to take note of Polly’s appearance rather than her personality. Like other characters in Joyce’s stories, Polly’s most significant feature is not her wit, but instead her outward beauty. After feeling trapped by her mother’s role in her relationship with Mr. Doran, Polly has a breakdown and threatens to end her life out of unhappiness. After her traumatic threat, Polly does not reflect on her inner thoughts or feelings, but instead “looks at herself in profile and readjusts a hairpin above her ear.” Through Joyce’s depictions of Eveline, Mrs. Mooney and Polly, he is portraying women as thoughtless, weak and tyrannical figures, reinforcing the stereotype that men are meant to be the dominant gender. In “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri, women are not only portrayed as being intelligent beings who have control over their own destiny, but it is almost as if gender roles are reversed, and in the end, it is Shukumar, not his wife Shoba, who is most heartbroken over the dissolution of their marriage. In Lahiri’s short story, there is no pressure for the women to appear as “eye candy” to the men. Sometimes Shoba would “come from the gym. Her cranberry lipstick was visible only on the outer reaches of her mouth, and her eyeliner had left charcoal patches beneath her lower lashes,” but to Shukumar, she was still beautiful and had so much more to offer than just her outward appearance.  It is Shoba, not Shukumar, who works and is able to be productive after the death of their baby. Shoba is not only mindful, but plans ahead in ways that mystify Shukumar. “It astonished him, her capacity to think ahead.” Shoba’s bold presence makes Shukumar feel “shy”, she is definitely the dominant figure in their relationship. At the end of the story, it is Shoba who takes the initiative to leave their failing marriage. It is Shoba who met up with another and it is Shoba who found another apartment. Unlike the women portrayed in 1984 and Dubliners, Shoba is not portrayed as a victim by any measure. Instead, she is cunning and motivated woman who uses her own intuition to dictate her life, instead of relying on the men around her. Lahiri’s depiction of Shoba reveals that women don’t have to portrayed as oversexualized, weak objects, but instead of human beings with agency and control over their own lives.