Throughout history, women have battled society’s role that has been placed upon them. This can be seen in many medias, but especially stories. In his short story, Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway writes about a conversation that is unorthodox due to the female’s social characteristics, which allow her to be a strong female character. As the story progresses, the girl, Jig, shows more and more attitude and self realization, which is very uncommon for the time period which the author set the story in.
Another strong female character that is represented, is Elisa Allen in John Steinbeck’s Chrysanthemums. Not only is Elisa Allen, the main female character, independently strong, but also intellectually strong. Both can be considered powerful women, but Elisa Allen has more of a natural authority to her than Jig; this can be seen in Jig’s transitions in the story and in Elisa Allen’s steady persona.
Nevertheless, both are seen as early feminist characters.
Hemingway’s character, Jig, experiences her strength while having a conversation with her lover about having an abortion. Jig, not wanting an abortion, becomes more negative on the idea of getting such a procedure done. Thus, growing more angry and standing up for herself through the use of implied speech. She says things such as “I don’t care about me” (Hemingway 206) and “Yes, you knows it’s perfectly simple” (Hemingway 207). Nobody truly never cares about themselves. As human beings, we have a will to live, desires to want, and for most of the most part, we put our selfishness first.
Jig says this line to show her lover how selfish he is being in his ruling of the situation. This is pretty feministic for a young, Spanish girl coming from a conservative nation around the 1920’s. The other line is also Jig’s way of being sarcastic and trying to push her stance on the American. She mocks him in his narcissism, feeding his ego because he claims to know so much about a women’s procedure. How would he know though? Does he secretly have a vagina and has had an abortion? Jig is strong enough to call this man’s shenanigans, which again allows her to assert herself in a male dictated conversation. This is what being a strong female is all about, holding your own in a world that may not agree with you.
Therefore, as the conversation progresses and Jig becomes more comfortable in her stance, the story is then able to show more of the gender struggle conflict happening in that time period. Another short story that posses a strong female character is John Steinbeck’s Chrysanthemums. Elisa Allen shows her independence through her pride and joy, the chrysanthemum flower bed. According to her husband, “You’ve got a strong new crop coming” (page 439). Even her husband agrees that Elisa is doing a remarkable job a her flower bed. As the conversation progresses, Elisa rises to the occasion that one day she might raise apple trees. She even gets snippy at Henry, her husband, for not taking her work or green thumb seriously. She says, “Maybe I could do it, too. I’ve a gift with things, all right” (Steinbeck 439). The quote becomes stronger because as she says it, her eyes are sharpen; this gives the reader the impression that she feels underestimated in her life. In the Depression Era, for a woman to even suggest she is overqualified for a responsibility that was given to her, that woman is really taking a stance on her value. Her intellect as well is superb.
Elisa shows that she is capable of something so many of us cannot do, which is hold back her feelings and thoughts. In the story, she expresses interest in the idea of going to a “prize fight”. Although her husband even asks her, “do you want to go?” (Steinbeck 448). She rejects his offer, knowing that respectable women do not go to such an event. Her decision proves her self discipline. How many women would sacrifice her wants to show her loyalty to the role given to her? Eliza is strong in a way that she can self sacrifice. Even when she feels betrayed by the businessman, Eliza carries on, fighting the tears, to make her husband proud and for her to keep her role. The reason as to why Eliza is more natural in her strength than Jig is fairly simple. For Jig, she had to toss back a couple of drinks in order to say what was on her mind. As you may know, alcohol affects the amount of insecurity one has. This can be seen when someone goes to the bar and notices a complete inebriated stranger hitting on a random person. Only in rare cases can that be seen without alcohol as a catalyst.
Even in those rare cases, the person proclaiming their love to someone by asking them out must have much confidence in themselves. Jig needed a boost to say what she meant to the American, however, Eliza did not. She was perfectly capable confronting the businessman and saying no to him directly as he tried to sell his talent. Although Jig needed a boost, she is still a strong character for standing up for what she believed and Eliza will always be the strong farmer’s wife. In conclusion, although these two character do not seem to be strong female leads in their stories. Both have much potential in them to be more than what their time period allows them to be. They do possess different strengths, but no one can measure a strength against another. The only thing a person can measure is the amount of confidence a person has in their strength.