Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

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The Blame Game

In Caryl Churchill‘s play, ” Vinegar Tom” , we meet several people in a town that believe in witches and witchcraft. Throughout the play we follow meetings of people and conversations that lead to this belief and/or desire to call someone a witch.

“MARGERY: I’ve no yeast.

JOAN: But you don’t give and they say what a mean bitter woman and curse you.

MARGERY: There’s nobody curses me. Now get out of my dairy. Dirty old woman you are, smelling of drink, come in here day after day begging, and stealing, too, I shouldn’t wonder…

JOAN: You shouldn’t say that.

MARGERY: … and your great ugly cat in here stealing the cream. Get out of my dairy.

JOAN: You’ll be sorry you spoke to me like that. I’ve always been your friend, Margery, but now you’ll find I’m not.

MARGERY: I’ve work to do. Now get out. I’m making my butter,

JOAN: Damn your butter to hell.

MARGERY: Will you get out?

JOAN: Devil take you and your your man and your fields and your cows and your butter and your yeast and your beer and your bread and your cider and your cold face…” (1245).

In this conversation the reader can see the harmlessness in Joan’s curse. Most likely the curse is sprouted from her anger developed due to her friend’s stinginess. But in this town where something has to be blamed when things go wrong, these words become deadly when mishaps do occur.

” MARGERY: The calves are shaking and they’ve got a terrible stench, so you can’t go near them and their bellies are swollen up. (JACK goes off) There’s no good running. There’s nothing you can do for them. They’ll die like the red cow. You don’t love me. Damn this stinking life to hell. Calves stinking and shaking there. No good you going to see, Jack. Better stand and curse. Everything dying on us. Aah. What’s that? Who’s there? Get out, you beast, get out. (She throws her shoe.) Jack, Jack.” (1250).

“MARGERY: The devil can’t bear to see us so good.

JACK: You know who it is?


JACK: The witch. Who it is.


JACK: You know who.

MARGERY: She cursed the butter to hell.

JACK: She cursed me when I got the bowl.

MARGERY: She said I’d be sorry I’d spoken to her.

JACK: She wished me trouble at home.

MARGERY: Devil take your man and your cows, she said that, and your butter. She cursed the calves see and she made them shake. She struck me on the head and in the stomach.” (1251).

Churchill did an amazing job at setting up each moment in the story so that even the readers would fall into the hysteria. Using certain moments as harmless conversation and then turning them around as criteria for being a witch was a ploy that sucked the reader right into the mentality of the towns people.

An important lesson that could be gained from this play, is one that most people know. Don’t blame others for your misfortune. It is easy to point fingers at what we don’t understand or what when we can’t label something as familiar to us. That seems to be the human way. But shunning someone or something is not the human thing to do.  


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The Blind (Wo) Man Sees All

Blind as a bat is a well known phrase universally. If the phrase is used toward someone it means that they can not see well and in some cases may have zero ability to use their sight. In  Toni Bambara‘s “My Man Bovanne” she introduces the reader to Bovanne, a blind handyman, with which Miss Hazel takes a liking to. In a quick reading of this short story it may seem as though Bovanne being blind is a minor detail but as the story unfolds and Bambara reveals the was Miss Hazel is treated by her children and the way her children are being “brain-washed” and “blinded” by popular beliefs of Black Power, it is evident that the handyman’s blindness is a metaphor. 

” He ain’t my man mind you, just a nice ole gent from the block that we all know cause he fixes things and the kids like him. Or used to fore Black Power got hold their minds and mess em around till they can’t be civil to ole folks” (555).

“I don’t answer cause I’ll cry. Terrible thing when your children talk to you like that. Pullin me out the party and hustlin me into some stranger’s kitchen in the back of a bar just like the damn police. And ain’t like I’m old old. I can still wear me some sleeveless dresses without the meat hanging off my arm. And I keep up with some thangs through my kids. Who ain’t kids no more. To hear them tell it. So I don’t say nuthin”(556).

Through these passages within the story and a few others, Bambara creates the statement that her children are the blind ones. They think they are fixing her and making things better but instead they are degrading her and turning their backs on the elders who have much to teach them. They are blind to the fact that their mother is a woman and she can dance if she wants with whomever she pleases and them telling her she looks foolish or “Like a bitch in heat” (556) is breaking her not fixing her in anyway.

This short story sends a message of rights and wrongs and the misguided directions off those who think they know the way. There is no set way to get the right results for anything, there is only the hope of trying and Bambara may be applying this in motherhood and power and status within this story.

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What is a Mother?

A woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. 

This is one definition of a mother. Though people all over have their own definitions this one comes close to the universal meaning. In Gwendolyn Brooks‘s, “the mother” the reader finds a definition that is much different but still all in all the same in the truth of “giving birth”.

“Abortions will not let you forget.

You remember the children you got that you didn’t get,

The damp small pulps with a little or no hair,

The singers and workers that never handled the air…”(808).

Brooks highlights the burden of abortion and the feelings that brew in the mind. Small pulps nit even yet a formed human being soon becomes a singer or a worker. The reader meets a mother that never had the chance to experience the life that was created inside of her. Yet the definition of a mother is a woman who has given birth to a child or children. Even the title allows the reader to understand relationship of this mother to her children. Though these children never had the opportunity of living with a voice of their own, this mother hears it.

“I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim

killed children…”(808)

Brooks allows the reader to see that motherhood, no matter what form it is in, is still a title that every mother will hold. Though a woman may never see her child born, or may have a stillborn, or give up their child or children, they are no less attached, they are no less affected.

A woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. 

 This is one definition of what a mother is. Yet Brooks gives the reader a look into the thoughts of a woman who never did give birth to her child or children. A woman who felt sorrow and pain for her loss children.

“If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,

Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate…” (808)

A woman who is a mother.

What is a mother? A woman who creates life, can nurture or stop it, makes choices for the better of her seed, feels what her children feel even when they are apart, makes choices for her own good; a woman who is first of all, human. Brooks shows the reader a woman who is human, who feels no less than any woman who has kept her child or children, and feels no less of a bond than if her children had become that singer or worker. Brooks presents the reader with a woman who loves and have loved her seeds.

“Believe me, I loved you all.

Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

All” (808).

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“A Journey” Literally and Figuratively

In Edith Warton’s ” A Journey” we are placed in the middle of a story with a wife taking care of her very ill husband. From the start we see a dynamic that has not yet been touched in our past readings of women writers.

“The man she had married had been strong, active, gently masterful: the male whose pleasure it is to clear a way through the material obstructions of life; but now it was she who was the protector, he who must be shielded from importunities and given his drops or beef- juice through the skies falling” (276).

This women, who is never named, longs for husband to be healthy once again. She yearns for him to take back his part as the head of their relationship, to be the rightful protector and provider in their marriage. It was interesting to read this and see that she out right wanted him in control. At a time when women were automatically put underneath men in status of all respects and in every aspect of marriage life, this women did not want the power she had.In creating this character Wharton made a choice to expose a fear; fear of the unknown.

Though it may have been a great desire to have the freedom to do what one pleased, this women saw the harm in it. Rather than saying, ” I can do anything you can” she said ” I know my place and I know your place; we are better in our respective places”. As the husband’s health further declined, his eventual death on the journey was inevitable. And in the reading I personally felt a selfishness arise in the wife and I, at first was quite off put.

“”Within the next hour she might find herself on the platform of some strange station, alone with her husband’s body…. Anything but that! It was too horrible-She quivered like a creature at bay” (278).

After reading this I immediately felt bad from the husband that his wife would be so horrified at being thrown out of the train that she would conceal his death. I thought surely she will say something, something to acknowledge that the time had come and she was in mourning. And after reading it a second time, I realized that she had done something in mourning; she covered it up. And the mourning that primarily took her over was not due to the death of her husband, it was due to the “death” of herself.  Wharton drops this hint to us before the death if the husband. “When they married, she had such arrears of living to make up: her days had been as bare as the white-washed school-room where she forced innutritious facts upon reluctant children. His coming had broken in on the slumber of circumstance, widening the present till it became the encloser of remotest chances” (276). Here we see that her marriage was a new chance at life that she had yet to explore. In her husband’s death, all that she had hoped for, and dreamt would be waiting for her, had died too.

In this story we follow this woman on her travel back to New York. But we also travel with her on her journey back to what seems to be the end of her life. She goes through the joy of being able to take her husband back home and feeling that everything will work out. Thinking that her marriage will still do what she hoped it would; free and expand her horizons. We then watch it fall down around her as her husband dies and in the end we watch it consume her. Wharton did a great job of allowing us to be apart of this journey in every way and to understand the many journeys that life presents us with.


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In His Shadow


Of the various themes in Virginia Woolf’s, ‘‘A Room of One’s Own’’, one theme that constantly streams throughout is the superiority complex men have in regards to women. For one reason or another men expect the women to “know their place” and to know that that place, is nowhere among men.

“Wife-beating, was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low…” (35).

Mr. Oscar Browning   “The impression left on his mind, after looking over any set of examination papers, was that, irrespective of the marks he might give, the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst man.” (41).

It was evident that men felt superior to women and expressed that feeling through their work, either as professors or writers. Woolf suggests that men act this way towards women as a way to lift themselves up. It is almost as if men play on the inferiority of women in order to further illustrate the superiority of them.

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man twice its natural size.” (32)

“For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?” (32)

The Role of Women in the 19th Century

It is true that not all men had this view on women and Woolf in her research found French moralist, Jean de La Bruyère‘s opinion of women, “Les femmes sont extremes; ells sont meilleures ou pires que les hommes- Women are extreme; they are either better or worse than men.” (29) Just in that moment Woolf allows the reader to see the difference in the opinions of men and that gives a chance to speculate whether their thoughts on women belong to one man or many men.

In conclusion Woolf did a nice job at carrying this theme throughout the reading and provided qualified reasons and evidence of this issue of that time. Though things in society have changed they still line up with Woolf’s words, which I believe drives the whole of the reading.