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Women Essay

2321 words - 10 pages

The Identity Struggle
Women’s roles are constantly changing. In early America, society believed that women were wives to their husbands and mothers to their children. They were there to serve the men in their lives. Young girls were required to obey the commands of their fathers, and women were to fulfill the wishes of their husbands. The men believed that this was their right. They believed that women’s job was to bolster the men’s self-esteem and to ensure that men were forever kings of their own domains. However, this belief changed drastically in the mid-nineteenth century, and by early twentieth century, women began to make statements of their own. They wanted women’s rights in ...view middle of the document...

She is content with life as a single woman. Once Joe returns home to marry her, she is quite disturbed at the thought of having to abandon her present lifestyle and marry Joe as was planned fifteen years earlier. One night, she finds out that Joe is no longer in love with her and is in love with another women. Louisa decides to tell him that she will not marry him. Louisa’s strength of character shines through the very moment that she explains to Joe that she will not marry him. “She never mentioned Lily Dryer. She simply said that while she had no cause of complaint against him she had lived so long in one way that she shrank from making a change” (7). Louisa never blames the situation on Joe-- rather she blames herself. She refuses her suitor and sacrifices her marriage because it will not bring her happiness (Gardener 2).
In the nineteenth century women depended on men for their financial support. Men were the bread -winners of the house, and therefore, it was inevitable that a woman had to marry. “Freeman’s happy ending for Louisa comes not in the form of her new suitor but in the return of her economic independence” (Gardener 8). Louisa possesses strength of will. She wants to be happy and proud, not live a life that is uncomfortable for her. Louisa maintains her identity. Freeman concludes this short work, “If Louisa Ellis had sold her birthright she did not know it, the taste of the pottage was so delicious and had been her sole satisfaction for so long” (Freeman 7-8). She may have refused marriage, the birthright of every young woman, but she maintains the sweet sense of her own true identity.
Similarly, Sarah Penn maintains her own identity, even as a married woman. The men have come to build a new barn at the edge of her property. Sarah questions her husband about the work that is happening in the corner of the field. “Look, father, I want to know what them men are diggin’ over in the field for, an’ I am goin’ to know” (Freeman 1). She explicitly demands an explanation for the what is going on, even though this is quite out of character for a woman. Although her husband asks her to go inside, Sarah just stands there and will not go in until there is some kind of explanation (Freeman 1).
Sarah demonstrates her strength and voices her opinions on the matter. “You ain’t found out yet we’re women-folks… and we know only what men-folk think we do” (Freeman 3). She voices the general opinion of men and women of New England in the nineteenth century. However, she believes differently for herself. When her husband leaves to go to town she takes the opportunity to move her family into the new barn and make it their new home. The entire town was taken aback by this small but powerful action. “Everybody paused to look at the staid, independent figure on the side track” (Freeman 9). Sarah will not change her plans for anyone-- not even the minister who comes to visit her. The minister tries to bring her proofs of a women’s role from the...

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