Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.


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Recitatif and the Unknown Races

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In the story Recitatif, by Toni Morrison we are introduced right away to two young girls. The only thing we know about them is that they are or different races and are placed in a shelter. The interesting thing that Morrison does is she never tells us what race each child is. Throughout the story it is the readers decision to choose who they think is which race. Their job is to notice parts in the novel that would set the races apart. As the reader your tendency is to lean toward stereotypical aspects that would define the girls’ races.  For example we are given a chance to be stereotypical right in the beginning of the story:

“We were eight years old and got F’s all the time. Me because I couldn’t remember what I read or what the teacher said. And Roberta because she couldn’t  read at all and didn’t even listen to the teacher” (pg. 1244).

This right away tends to make readers think Roberta is African American. This was because the story was written in 1983. During this time period many slaves could not read or write.  This is the first assumption the reader would make but throughout the novel Morrison challenges us.

The next section where Morrison plays on the race role is when Twyla and Roberta meet at the Howard Johnson’s. (click for a quick old commercial of one of these restaurants!!) Twyla was working there and Roberta stopped in.

“”We’re on our way to the Coast. He’s got an appointment with Hendrix.” She gestured casually toward the boy next to her.

“Hendrix? Fantastic,” I said. “Really fantastic. What’s she doing now?”

Roberta coughed on her cigarette and the two guys rolled their eyes up at the ceiling.

“Hendrix. Jimmy Hendrix, asshole. He’s only the biggest—Oh, wow. Forget it” (pg. 1229).

Many would assume Roberta was African American here as well, but others would could assume she was Caucasian.  A lot of Caucasians were huge fans of Jimmy Hendrix. It is another way of Morrison trying to get the reader to question the races.

Morrison deliberately left the races out. She wanted to show that people make assumptions based on people no matter what you tell them.  Morrison wrote many other stories about these situations. Morrison is very passionate about who she is and what she has done to get to where she is in life. Below is an interview with her. She is a powerful woman!


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The Story of Eve

Many women characters throughout the bible do not have a voice. Many of their voices are hidden by many of the male voices. One example of this would be in the story of Adam and Eve

To sum up the story God created a man out of clay and placed in him in this beautiful garden. He was not allowed to eat the apple from the tree in the center of the garden. When god saw that he was lonely he created Eve. Eve and Adam loved each other’s company and decided to take a walk into the center of the garden. Eve decides to eat the fruit God forbid them to eat because a snake (otherwise known as Satan) convinces her to do so.  Adam then joins in. God tells them that a Messiah will come and Restore their relationship with Him due to their sin.

Throughout the entire story we hear all about Adam and how he was so great.  Eve was referred to as Adam’s helper she never had a voice. Not until Paula Gun Allen decided to give her one.

In her poem Eve the Fox she talks of Eve and how she feels her thoughts of the events were.  She talks of how strong and sly she was. It talks of how Eve had two characteristics of snakes. It said

“She was serpent wise and snake foolish,”

This goes to show that she was strong yet had a little weakness as well.

This poem gives the impression that Eve was proud of what she was doing. That she was not biting in the apple but the lovely “flesh” of Adam.

“she sighed inside and wiggled deliciously

while he bit deep into the white fleshy”

Another idea that the poem brought out was that Adam and Eve were embracing the fact that they were naked. In the original story they cover themselves with leaves and run and hide. In the poem however they embrace it and continue to eat the apple and enjoy everything about the moment.

“of his sweat, the strong center of his

muscled arms, she worshipped the dark hair

that fell over his chest in waves.

And together riding the current of this

altogether new knowing they had found,

they bit and chewed, bit and chewed.”

Overall the poem helps shine a light on a different aspect. We can see how interpretations of various events can be made.

Below is a reading of Adam and Eve from the bible.

 


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Sharon Olds Stepping Outside the Box

Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds is a very unique person. She is a contemporary American poet and is very well-known for her poems for a particular reason. She writes poems about very controversial issues. She writes about poems that deal with child abuse, rape, sexual desire, incest, and maternal love.

Olds first started writing in the 80’s. One example of a poem written in The Year. This can be found on page 559 in our book. To sum up the poem it is a flashback told by a little girl. She talks of a year when a girl in her class was found murdered and raped.

“…was the year they found her body in the hills,

in a shallow grave, naked, white as

mushroom, partially decomposed,

raped, murdered, the girl from my class.” (pg. 559)

She also goes on to talk about how her mother wanted to leave their father and how risky it was. They wanted to make  sure they were far away so the father could not find them. It talked of the suffering she had to deal with. It also stated at the end that the girl had something in common with those from the Holocaust.

“It had happened to six million.

And there was another word that was not

for the six million, but was a word for me

and for many others. I was:

a survivor.”

She was strong and a survivor. She had to suffer what many children today do. Children around the world suffer from abusive parents. One statistics states that nearly 3.6 million cases of child abuse are made every year in the United States.  There are more statistics but this one sinks in the most.

Olds wrote this in a time period where such topics were not written about. She talked of other serious issues as well. In 1993 she wrote, in my opinion one of her most controversial poems. This poem deals with a 12-year-old girls being raped.

“They chased her and her friend through the woods

and caught them in a small clearing, broken

random bracken, a couple of old mattresses,

the dry ochre of foam rubber,

as if the place had been prepared.

The thin one with black hair

started raping her best friend,

the blond one stood above her,” (pg. 560)

This poem continues on in more detail about what the men actually did to the little girls. As a woman I found this very hard to read and that is in present day when the topic of rape is more common. I imagine that when this poem came out (1993) it was a lot more controversial. Rape is still an issue in today’s society. There are even statistics of rapes that have occurred.

Olds today continues to write about controversial issues. She tends to also write about funny aspects as well. In the video we hear her read poems that contain topics many people don’t usually write poems about.

Once when Olds was interviewed and asked about her writing she stated “’I think that my work is easy to understand because I am not a thinker. I am not a…How can I put it? I write the way I perceive, I guess. It’s not really simple, I don’t think, but it’s about ordinary things—feeling about things, about people. I’m not an intellectual. I’m not an abstract thinker. And I’m interested in ordinary life.” She added that she is “not asking a poem to carry a lot of rocks in its pockets. Just being an ordinary observer and liver and feeler and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with the pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion.’”

This is a very inspiring quote and can help future writers. Overall Sharon Olds is responsible to bringing to light issues people do not want to talk about. I believe her poems will continue to be relevant many years down the road. The issues she brings up will continue to be controversial no matter how many years have passed.


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Women and Their Trifles

 

Trifles by Susan Glaspell was written in 1916. Her intention of writing this was to bring up the issue of domestic violence and show the idea of gender roles. The title alone plays a major role in the play, in that it is symbolic and ironic. Trifles has an important meaning to the text.

We start off by learning about how John Wright was murdered. The speculation is that the wife did it. The men in the story are trying to find evidence to back them up. The only thing is that they are looking in all of the wrong places. They are scoping out the bedroom where the murder occurred. Meanwhile, the women are downstairs supposedly gathering items to take to Mrs. Wright, but in reality are solving the case.

 

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The women find multiple clues that point out she is guilty. They find all of her belongings in a disheveled mess, especially the kitchen. In the time of 1916 the women’s role was to be in the kitchen. It should have been nice and clean. Mrs. Wrights kitchen was the complete opposite.

In the play the Court Attorney states “And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?” (983)

This shows how men expect the house to be clean and that her kitchen was not up to standards. The men viewed this as a small aspect whereas the women knew something must have been going on with Mrs. Wright.

The next issue we deal with is the idea of the “Knotting” in the quilt. When she started to quilt everything was perfect and as it went on it got horrendous. This seems to symbolize her life and go hand in hand with the bird. Before she married she was known as Minnie Foster. She had a beautiful life. She loved to sing.

According to Mrs. Peters “I wonder how it would seem never to have any children around. No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird— a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too.” (988)

This implies that because of Mr. Wright, her life went from perfect to awful. She was no longer aloud to be herself and sing. Marriage had changed her and not in a good way.  The “Knotting” also seems to ironic because she used a knot to kill Mr. Wright.

Throughout the entire play the men are too focused on finding hard evidence that they do not even know the women are solving the crime. The men seem to think they are superior to the women. They believe the women are merely fascinated with their trifles. A trifle is something of little or no importance. The irony is that these are the most important aspects of the murder.

Hale says “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”(983)

This shows that the men in the story are very condescending. The role of the women in the story is very clear. They are to keep the house clean and continue to worry about unimportant things. The men will take care of the rest. This irony just shows how women are not as useless as the men think they are.

 

 

 


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Men’s Views on Women

Virginia woolf

Throughout “A Room of One’s Own” Virginia Woolf discusses how men portray women. Men have a perceived notion that women are meant to stay at home and deal with the household issues. Some of these household issues include cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children.

“Mr. John Langdon Davies warns women “that when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary (71).”’

This is saying that if women don’t desire to have children then they will be utterly useless. He feels that is the only aspect of life that women are important for. Men also believe that women are inferior to them. They believe that men hold the power.

“”Wife-Beating was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low…””

Men would even go as far as beating up women just to prove that they had power.

Virginia Woolf even did a little digging to figure out men’s opinion on women. While doing her study she couldn’t come to a solid conclusion on what men thought of women.

Samuel Butler says “Wise Men never say what they think of Women (29).” Woolf then goes on to say that if they say that “wise men never say anything else apparently (29).” This sarcasm makes readers believe that Men should speak up about women. Going along with this idea Pope says “Most women have no character at all (29).”

Contradicting these accusations is French moralist La Bruyere. He states that “Les femmes sont extremes; elles sont meilleures ou pires que les homes (29). This translates to “Women are extreme; they are either better or worse.” Bruyere states that women may be better than men.

Overall in the text Woolf perceives men as having a negative connotation with women. Women should not do anything out of the “social norms.” She does go on to say that we should start to act out of these ideas of what women should do. She mentions that women were able to vote, write and even attend some schools.  Now days women have a lot more options than when what we used to have. I believe these options will continue to grow overtime. If Virginia Woolf was around now she would be amazed at how far women have come.

 

 

(Click below to watch a video)

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