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Breaking Through the Society of Male Chauvinism

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Breaking through the Society of Male Chauvinism

The novel the Bell Jar touches upon women's life in the male chauvinism society in America. Male chauvinism refers to the belief that men are superior to women and treat women negatively based solely upon their gender. This notion is alien to us. In Bible, Eve was made out of Adam's rib and as a punishment for her betrayal of God's will, God announced that "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."(Genesis 5) Perhaps with the deep influence of Bible in American society, male enjoys superiority over female. The heroine in the Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood, suffers greatly in the society that is prevailed by male chauvinism and made great effort to break free from the male-dominated society..

To begin with, American society depicted in Bell imposes prescriptive gender roles on women, which encourages women to become compliant housewives. In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan argues that women undertake a regressive move back to the home under the influence of a mystique that idealized the role of homemaker and give it an unjustified privileged status. (Friedan) In Bell, Buddy's mother Mrs. Willard said that "what a man wants is a mate and what a woman wants is infinite security" and "what a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from."(Plath 74) When Esther was dating with Buddy, "he always arranged our week-ends" and "always trying to explain things to me and introduce me to new knowledge."(Plath 70) Moreover, women in such a male-dominated society are judged only in terms of their husband or sexual relationship. Esther has always been a straight A student, but it was not until she went to the Yale Junior Prom with Buddy did she receive respect from the junior. "When she heard I was going to the Yale Junior Prom she treated me with amazement and respect". "Nobody made any more nasty loud remarks outside about people wasting their golden college days with their nose stuck in a book."(Plath 63)

What's more, a double standard is set in terms of virginity between men and women. When Esther was unaware of Buddy's loss of virginity, she drew a rosy picture of their love. She thought that Buddy was pure and innocent. But after learning that Buddy has actually slept with a barely known waitress for many times, she realized that Buddy is a hypocrite. Turning to the seniors in her college, Esther only got the response as "most boys were like that and you couldn't honestly accuse them of anything until you were at least pinned or engaged to be married."(Plath 73) During Esther's college years, however, her mother sent her an article named "In Defense of Chastity" from the Reader's Digest, suggesting that girls shouldn't sleep with anybody but her husband only after they were married. Men can lose their pureness easily and free from accusation while cases were just the opposite concerning women. Furthermore, through having sex, men are free from worries and only obtain pleasure whereas women suffer from bleeding, pain and a chance of getting stuck with a baby. Esther witnessed the delivery of a baby and it was filled with



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