In this essay I am going to examine how women have been treated from 1850 to 1950 as shown in four short stories. Women’s lives have changed greatly in the last hundred years. At the beginning of the 20th century women’s role was to cook, do the washing up, have children and then look after them. Woman could not get their own property, they could not have a divorce and they could not have proper education because they were not regarded worthy to be educated. Everything changed when after World War 1 women got the vote.
Because most of the men had gone off to war the women had to do all the basic jobs that the men would have done. The four stories that I am going to examine are Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver by Thomas Hardy, The Son’s Veto by Thomas Hardy, Tickets Please by D H Lawrence, and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl. All of these stories have been written by men so they are all from a man’s point of view. Tony Kytes the Arch- Deceiver is set in the middle of the 19th century in the country side next to a town. Tony Kytes is coming back from the market when he picks up three girls which were two of his ex-girlfriends and his fiance.
He gets into a problem because he does not want them to see each other with him so finds himself with one of his ex-girlfriends in the back with his fiance and the second ex-girlfriend riding along in front with him. It ends up that the cart crashes and all the women fall out and see each other. At the end he asks each of them to marry him in turn and the only one who accepts was the last one he asks. This is Milly, who was the one he was going to marry in the first place. At that time women were expected to respect their husbands and be good wives.
They seem to accept this as one of the women says, “I would make you a finer wife” in order to try to get Tony to marry her. Since the town is so small gossip can travel quickly so when a girl who is not going to be his wife asks for a lift on his cart he is not so sure because that was not the right social behaviour back then. It appears very important for the women to be good looking, as they are all mentioned in terms of their looks and not their personalities. The women are described as being, “dashing” or “handsome”.
The women are aware that looks are important and even think that this alone will enable them to find a husband. Unity says “Can you say I’m not pretty, Tony”, making him look at her. Although they are portrayed as vulnerable and weak, the women aren’t foolish. It would have been thought improper for a woman to have done anything but this. Tony’s father shows this when he declares that he should marry Milly based on the grounds that she was the only one who “did not ask to ride with him”. This was because women were not supposed to ask men as it would be considered as too forward, and they would not make the best wife.
This was what they would have been judged on, along with how pretty they were. The women were also not allowed to have sex before marriage because if it had emerged that Hannah (one of Tony’s ex-girlfriend) had had sex with him, then she might never find another husband. This attitude does not count for the men, as it was almost expected that he had had his way with Hannah as Tony says: “though you may think it an unusual thing in me”. So even if he had had sex with her then it would not have spoiled his chances of finding a wife. This makes the women in the mercy of the men.
In this story it is vital that a woman finds a husband because without one they would not fit in the life style of the rural community. For these women it seems almost urgent to find a husband so they are almost fighting for Tony’s hand in marriage. Hannah feels no guilt when Tony decides that he wants to abandon Milly to marry her, saying “Throw over Milly? – all to marry me! ” Since there are not so many eligible bachelors left in the town there is competition. At the end of the story when they fell out of the cart, Hannah’s father forbid her to marry Tony.
Hannah does what her father tells her to do but Tony does not. “The Son’s Veto” is set around the late 19th century in a small country village where every one knows each other and gossip travels fast and on the outskirts of London. Sophy at the beginning of the story is a servant to the priest, but when the priest’s wife dies and Sophy becomes crippled they get married and have a child called Randolph. In doing this the priest became an social outcast from the rest of the middle class people in the village. After the priest had died Sophy decided to get remarried, but to a working class man.
Her son Randolph hated the idea of her marrying beneath her very much and forbade her marriage to him. The story starts off with Sophy being a servant to a priest and his wife. The vicar and his wife were about 40 years of age, both from a good family and they were childless. This all changed when the vicar’s wife died. He was mourning when he fell ill. Sophy looked after him all of the time and was constantly going up and down the stairs giving him stuff, ” Sophy brought up meals to him”. One day after she had brought his food up for him she fell down the stairs and twisted her foot.
The village doctor was called in but nothing could be done so she was left crippled. When this was happening the priest was getting better but Sophy was told that she was not to do any walking or do anything that involves standing for long periods of time. The priest decides that there is no point in having two servants in the house since there is only him left. When Sophy & Sam hear this they talk about getting married and getting a home together. This starts a quarrel between them and Sophy goes to the priest to ask him if she can stay for a bit longer.
This is when the priest realises that he would be lost with out her so he asks her to marry him. Sophy said yes, not because she loved him but because she respected him greatly. “Sophy did not exactly love him, but she had a respect for him which almost amounted to veneration”. Veneration meaning that she almost worships him like a God. In doing this, “he had committed social suicide”. Because of this they moved to the south of London. ” Sophy the woman was as charming a partner as a man could posses, though Sophy the Lady had her deficiencies. ” This means that she would be the perfect wife to any man if they were not such snobs.
Shortly after they had moved, they had their first child, which they called Randolph. Since he was their only child, ” for whose education no expense had been spared. ” They sent Randolph off to public school where he learnt to be a gentleman. Sophy’s relationship with her son is that he looks down on her and she accepts it. “Has, dear mother – not have! ” This correction of his mother shows that he was in charge from a very early age. As Randolph got older he started to see the imperfection in his mother Sophy and he would point some of them out like above when he corrects her grammar.
Mr Twycott the priest dies soon after and is buried. Sophy’s son’s education had been all paid for at the public school so she was left in the home alone with nothing to do but, “to go on weaving and coiling the nut brown hair. ” She just waited around for her son to come home for holidays. One day when she is alone in the house, Sam comes along with his cart and starts talking to her about “their native village in dear old North Wessex,” and asks her if she would like to come along with him in his cart. She says no at first and then she changes her mind because she gets so excited just thinking about it.
She went in the cart with him to the market but all the time thinking of what her son would think about it. As they were driving along Sam told her of his plans to set up a greengrocer’s shop down at Aldbrickham, which was their county town. Sophy asks him why he does not do it and he replied, “Because I’m not sure if – you’d would join me. ” She is surprised and frightened at the idea. She goes on to explain why to him by telling him about her son and how well educated he is. Sam tries to persuade her into marrying him, but she says, “Sam, if I could, I would marry you, some day.
She did not want to tell Randolph, but it had to be done so one day when they were at Lord’s watching a cricket game she tried to tell him but the words would not come out. She town him when they were back at home and he thought that is was a, ” a very reasonable one. ” Randolph hoped that his new step father would be a gentlemen like his father was when he was still alive. His reaction was to, “remain fixed for a moment; then he flushed, leant over the table, and burst into passionate tears. ”
After this out burst he looks himself in his room for a bit until he comes out and tells her that “I am ashamed of you! It will ruin me! He is being totally selfish towards her because he does not want his own mother to be happy just because he will feel embarrassed in front of all his friends. Randolph managed to get Sophy to swear in front of a little cross that she “would not wed Samual Hobson without his consent. ” She swore it because she thought that when he became a priest he would soften and let her marry him. He never did let her marry him and one day she died. At the end of the story the writer describes how the funeral went though the town with the “smooth-shave priest” and the “mans whose eyes were wet,” who must have been Sam mourning Sophy’s passing.
Since Randolph has put his veto on her, her life is empty because she can’t see Sam any more and she only gets to see her son when he is back from school. She allows him to do this because she respects him so much that she does not want to disappoint him. She is there to keep him happy because that is the way in which she has been brought up, believing that the lower class should look after the upper class and women should look after the men. Tickets Please was set during the First World War on an urban tramline where the woman had a much rougher lifestyle.
The tramline that the women worked on in this story was the one that took coal miners from the town to the mines and then back again when work had finished. The trams were very dangerous and that made every one very jumpy because they never knew when the thing would derail or catch on fire. This gives the atmosphere of nervousness and excitement in the tram. The main male character in the story was John Thomas who would go around and have his way with most of the women conductors. He was not crippled or too old to go to war but his job was thought of as too important as he was the head inspector.
Annie falls in love with him thinking that he would have changed for her, but he dumps her like he did for all the other girls. But this time the girls get their own back on him by beating him up. The reason why the women where working on the tramline was because the men were away at war . They had been given freedom and power which gave them confidence in what they do which they did not have much off before the war. The women had to struggle for the write to vote before the war had started. The women were beginning to believe that they were equal to men, and therefore were no longer acting in such a gentle and soft manner.
The women working on the tram stick together because they need to in case one of them get in trouble with the men from the mine. John Thomas likes the right to choose between lots of willing women. He was able to do this because almost all of the young men had gone off to fight in the war. Since the women were working on the trams now they were not wearing the long flowing dresses, but instead wore “ugly blue uniform” and “skirts up to their knees” which 20 years ago would have been totally inappropriate. The women’s attitudes have also changed because they are in power now and they like it so they start to behave like the men used to.
Annie is also described as having a “sharp tongue” telling us that she is loud and cheeky. The author describes the girls as “fearless young hussies” and he tells the audience that “They fear no-one, and everyone fears them”. This tells us that now the roles of women has changed dramatically as now they are very powerful and wouldn’t be told what to do. The woman all want a man, although it may seem that Annie and the rest of the girls do not need a man, because of their independence. They are described as being “very glad to have a boy”. At the end of the story, all the girls get together to get their revenge on John Thomas.
They do this by tricking him into coming into their break room by behaving friendly towards him, but surprising him by beating him up. They start off by asking him a awkward question about which one of the men he was going to get married to. He did not properly answer the question and he came up with, “I don’t want to make enemies” and Annie replied, “You’d only make one, the chosen one. ” They attacked him “like a swift cat” and knock him down to the ground and then sit on his back. He runs for the door but they have locked it so he asks in an authoritative tone of voice for them to open it now.
They replied by saying “We shan’t – not until you have chosen! ” It got more serious as Annie took off her belt and hit him around his head. He immediately sprang on her but the rest of the girls got him off her. At the end he decided to pick Annie. He ends up with a kind of victory because she still likes him but she could not admit it. Lamb to the Slaughter was set in the early 1950’s. The position of women in society by now was that they had the right to vote but they were still expected to get married and then to look after their husbands the best they could.
Mary Maloney waits for her husband who’s a policeman to come home from work. When he comes home from work one day he tells her some very bad news that suggests that he is breaking up with her for another woman. This is made worse by the fact that she is carrying his baby. She reacts by pretending that nothing has happened so she goes and makes him supper. She hits him over the head with a frozen leg of lamb because she realises that he is really going away from her because he says he was going out. Then she thinks up her alibi in order to tell the police when they arrive.
Her plan is to go down the local green grocer and buy something for dessert and pretend as if nothing had happened. The plan went perfectly and she even managed to get rid of the evidence by persuading the police men to eat the leg of lamb. At the beginning of the story Mary Maloney was the typical 1950’s house wife in the way in which she looked after the house and her husband. The room was described as being, “warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight. ” She would spend her time sewing when she had time from cleaning and making him food.
The relationship between the police man and his wife is not very good in terms of equality, because she spends all of her time sitting around and waiting for him to come home from work. All she does is to look after the house and cook food for him which is a reflection on the social standing of women. Being a house keeper is regarded as less important than being a police officer. Today a young married couple would both have jobs until they have kids, but in those days the woman would stay at home and do what the woman in the story does. However she is not as stupid as she is made out to be because she has got away with murder.
Since she is going to have his baby and she did everything that he asked of her she was surprised when one day he came home and said, “This is going to be a shock to you, I’m afraid,”. It must have been something really horrible because she was so shocked she did not even argue with him or even say anything. But all he cared about was that “there needn’t be any fuss” because “It would not be very good for my job. ” After he had told her she thought about it for a while and she hoped that the whole thing was a day dream and that he had not even spoken to her.
After all she thought she was a good wife to him because she would stay at home and make him meals which he liked and she would also do all of the house work. So she asked him if he would like any supper but he said, “No” but she went on to make it anyway. As she was walking across the room and down into the cellar she “couldn’t feel her feet touching the floor. ” When she was down in the cellar she went into the deep-freeze and took a hold of the first thing she could see, which was a leg of lamb.
She was “holding the thin bone -end of it,” in her hand as she went up the stairs when she got into the living room where she saw her husband standing by the window. So she paused for a bit when he said “For god sake, Don’t make supper for me. I am going out. ” At that moment she was so mad that she went up behind him and hit him over the head with the leg of lamb. She was so shocked that she stood there looking at the body for a while until she said to herself, “So what if I’ve killed him. ” Her mind was so clear and fast now because as the wife of a detective she knew exactly what the penalty was for such a crime.
She thought about what they would do with her since she had an unborn child, but she did not know and she was not prepared to take a chance. She came up with the idea of pretending that nothing had happened and that she would put the leg of lamb into the cooker and go to the local grocers where she would buy something for his tea. So she practised saying what she would say to the grocer. She said “Hullo Sam” aloud but she thought that it seemed “peculiar”. She is being portrayed as being a gentle house wife that can not think for her self. When she goes into the shop she pretends nothing has happened and talks to him normally.
He believes that nothing has happened because he can not see through what she is doing, in setting up an alibi. Part of the reason is that he does not think for a minute that she could kill a man. So she uses this to her advantage even to the policemen. Soon there were lots of people in the house, first the doctor then a police photographer and some more detectives. She told her story to them in more detail in which she gave the grocer as her alibi. She was happy to find that they had checked the greengrocer out and even happier when the detective came back and she realised that they did not suspect her.
The position of the woman in this story was that she sat at home waiting for him to come home every day and when it was convenient for him to break up with her she was supposed to make no fuss. Her husband had this assumption and his colleagues too had the same idea about their own wives. This is shown when they could not believe for a minute that she could have killed him. This demonstrates that they think that all women were good for was to have kids and to look after their house for them as they went out and earned some money. She uses this to her advantage as she persuades the detectives to eat the Leg of Lamb which was the murder weapon.
When they are eating it one of them says that the weapon was, ” Probably right under our noses. ” This is when she goes into another room and starts to giggle. She giggles because she knows that she has just got away with murder and that they were much more stupid than she was because they were even eating the murder weapon which was ironic. The way in which she is presented in the story changed greatly from the beginning to the end. At the start she was portrayed as an ordinary house wife that was not too clever because all she did was to do the cleaning or to sit around the house doing sewing.
At the end of the story she is portrayed in a completely different manner as now she is the sneaky, clever woman that has just got away with murder and she has even managed to get rid of the evidence by using her charms to persuade the police men to eat it. In comparison all four stories are set over a 100 year time period, from 1850 to 1950. Women’s position over the hundred years changed greatly from Tony Kytes the Arch- Deceiver where the women do what they are told to in Lamb to the Slaughter where the woman killed her husband.
In Tickets Please and Lamb to The Slaughter the women are underestimated because in both stories the men are attacked and hurt badly if not even killed. Also the women are underestimated because they are not expected to do anything like the sort of thing that they did at the end. In The Sons Veto and in Lamb to the Slaughter the women both wait at home for the man to come home and when he did get home the women would act like servants to them by making them food and drinks.
In Tony Kytes the Arch- Deceiver the women in it take what’s given to them but in Tickets Please they show him their dislike of what he was doing and they express this in the way in which they beat him up. When they beat him up they act together and not in competition with each other. The women are portrayed as being more independent in the later stories which reflects on the changing status of women in society. Unlike the women in Tony Kytes, who are in competition with each other and will take what Tony dishes out to them, but the women in Tickets Please do not except that the man thinks that he can do what he wants.
In conclusion the women in these four stories are treated with either no respect or just regarded as second class citizens. The men in these stories all would treat the women with no respect and the women were under estimated, which came in useful for some of them. The story which I liked the most was the Lamb to the Slaughter because I like the twist at the end of the story when she persuades them to eat the evidence and then goes off giggling.