What Defines a Woman? Intellect? Money? Status? Perseverance?

Now what defines a man as better than a woman? Insecurity? Certain Body Parts? This question has probably been asked for centuries. It was especially asked during the Victorian era where women were only meant to be House wives, mothers or to be objectified sexually. Pygmalion and The Son’s Veto give their readers two points of view, one being from that of a woman who wishes to be treated like a person and the other being from a woman who wasn’t allowed the simple pleasure of being wedded.

Both have the similarities of men wanting to change them. Only one “triumphs” in the end. Is it really Triumph though? In Centuries to come, do the actions and mistreatment of women change? Or are Pygmalion and The Son’s Veto predicting a long line of misogyny, sexism, and discrimination to lower class women or all women in general?

Pygmalion derives from the Greek myth of a sculptor who made an ivory statue representing his ideals of womanhood and then falls in love with his own creation.

He names her Galatea; which the goddess Venus brings to life to answer the sculptors prayers. With George Bernard Shaw’s version, Eliza Doolittle already “existed” without Mr. Higgins. So to presumably write about Mr. Higgins changing Eliza to “exist” in their society is a bit demeaning but true seeing as how she already had no standing in society just because she was a woman.

Why did Shaw feel the need to rewrite the character to have more fight and backbone in her? He was known for agreeing with women’s/equal rights but did he feel that Eliza is a prediction of what it means to be a woman now? He puts emphasis and attention to the mistreatment of women when Eliza is made fun of, betted on and disregarded by her father who was willing to sell her.

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Comparing the myth to Shaw’s version, one seems a bit a better than the other but Shaw’s version still has flaws.

Especially when Mr. Higgin falls in love with Eliza. Reality doesn’t always have a happy ending. Even though Mr. Higgins falls in love with her, it doesn’t mean he respects her or views her as his equal. He still treated her as if she was a “pawn in a chess game”. He feels he turned her into his “ideal woman” or the ideal woman that society will accept. That being said, women had no standing in society unless they were educated and wealthy and even then, those women were just arm candy for even more educated and wealthier men. Shaw used his literature to give a voice to an uneducated lower class character and allowed her to feel the anger towards men and the upper class for not acknowledging her as a person.

This brings The Son’s Veto to mind. This story depicts Thomas Hardy’s disdain of the Victorian society which stands on shallow social rules and lack of morals. The short story shows the writer’s belief in critiquing social constraints of the Victorian era which gives more importance to rules at the expense of happiness. Sophy is a young woman who lives in the village Gaymead in England. She’ s in love with a gardener named Sam. She works as a parlor maid at Revered Twycott’s. After the death of the reverends first wife, Sophy takes care of him and becomes quite close to him. She had announced to the reverend that she wanted to marry Sam but later said they had gotten into an argument.

While serving the Reverend, Sophy gets hurt during an accident in his home. Twycott notices that he has developed feelings for her and proposes to her to marry him. She respected the man and agreed to marry him although she didn’t exactly love him. Randolph and her loneliness are the results of said marriage. Randolph is her son and is the result of a high class upbringing and private education. Randolph is very conscious of his background and his status in society. He consistently corrected his mother’s poor use of grammar, who never fully transformed into a lady. He occasionally visits Sophy, who he feels is not up to societies standards of a true lady. Randolph denies his mother’s request to marry Sam after they have fallen in love again and he learns that Sam is just a Shop-Keeper and felt he would be “degraded in the eyes of all the gentlemen of England”. Sophy continues to wait, thinking her son will change his mind but he doesn’t. She dies waiting and pining after Sam. Randolph stuck to his background and his mother died in pain.

The Victorian era in which hardy was from, gave women the label of being weak, helpless, and only meant to bear children. Sophy is the perfect example of that type of woman. She is “weak and helpless” since she has to wait for her son’s approval to let her marry again. Sophy is disparaged by her son who cannot deal with her not being able to match his social standing. It shows how artificial the Victorian age was. Twycott married her because she was young and beautiful but he too had a bit of annoyance with how difficult it was to turn Sophy into a lady of good social standing. Hough she was young and beautiful, she was denied to live life in her own way. Simply put, her life wasn’t hers. She was miserable in the decision in she made of not marrying Sam. Hardy brings into question of does money equal happiness?

What did being part of the higher part of society get Sophy? It definitely wasn’t happiness and she died pining for the life and love that she had wanted. Genuine feelings were disregarded when it came to social standards and what society had to say if you were seen with the wrong person. Randolph allowed his education to replace his compassion and allowed his own mother to die unhappy. Hardy’s attempt to fight the social burdens and embrace happiness is seen in Sophy trying to convince her son to let her marry Sam. Happiness is everyone’s fundamental right. Sophy didn’t get that right and died Lady Twycott, even though she wasn’t considered a “lady”. Sophy’s death reveals how a person of higher class condemned her to die in pain and sorrow , keeping her title as a lady rather than marrying a shopkeeper and being happy.

Men making decisions for women has happened for a very long time. History has repeated itself countlessly when it comes to the objectification and mistreatment of women. Literature was one of the many ways people spoke out against the abuse. It started with literature, then sit ins, then protests, now marches. Women are still mistreated and belittled but now it’s being brought to light and settled in courts or women succeeding at life.

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What Defines a Woman? Intellect? Money? Status? Perseverance?. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/what-defines-a-woman-intellect-money-status-perseverance-best-essay/

What Defines a Woman? Intellect? Money? Status? Perseverance?
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