Feminism In Fifth Business

Great Essays
“When the personal, emotional, sexual experiences of women’s lives gained significance as legitimate social concerns with political consequences, men were forced to examine their own socially constructed roles as men…” (Plain and Sellers) This notion takes shape in Robertson Davies’s 1970 novel, Fifth Business. The novel presents an interesting debate over whether or not it is a feminist text since it was written by a non-feminist man. However, Fifth Business was authored during the second wave of feminism, a prominent movement which focused heavily on gynocriticism, defined as a form of feminist literary criticism that “seeks to appropriate female literacy” (O’Connor), and consequently may have had unknowingly had an effect on the way in which …show more content…
There is a defined mould that women and men are expected to fill, yet these gender-based standards are near impossible to meet since everyone is unique. Those surrounding women usually consist of being weak, submissive, quiet, pretty subordinates to men (Brewer). Fortunately, most female characters in Fifth Business do not adhere to these stereotypes. For example, Liesl is just as strong as Dunstan as evidenced by the fight between the two of them. However, not all female characters in the novel are as fortunate as Liesl in that respect, such as Leola Staunton. Through her, Fifth Business shows the heartbreaking impact that the pressures of gender roles can have on someone. Leola’s husband’s hopes for her fit perfectly into the traditional gender-based stereotypes, which are then accentuated due to their position in high-class society. So Leola tries to be the “perfect wife” for Boy, however, who she is is not the “ideal woman” of the time. Soon after, she comes to this realization, and Dunny explains, “[Leola] had lost heart in the fight to become the sort of sophisticated, cultivated, fashionably alert woman Boy wanted for a wife.” (Davies ) As a result, Boy not becomes fed up and bored with her. He emotionally abuses her, cheats on her, all of which drives her to attempt suicide. In the end, she could not be Boy’s “perfect wife”, and sadly, a woman who does not meet the gendered personality guidelines is …show more content…
Female characters in Fifth Business are mostly treated poorly, however, these aspects show the very real struggles that women have to undergo in society. The horrible stories presented are not glossed over, and the cruelty behind them is acknowledged. The most prominent issue exemplified in the novel is objectification. Objectification is defined as the seeing and/or treating a person as an object, often used in relation to objectification occurring in the sexual realm (Papadaki). The main instance of objectification occurs in Gyges And King Candaules. During said section, Boy Staunton takes photos of Leola. In these photos, she is posing completely naked. Boy then insists on looking at them while both Dunstan and Leola are present. Leola protests, understandably not wanting to look at them with Dunstan. Boy then proceeds to humiliate her, saying, “‘You’ll never see pictures of a prettier girl… Of course it isn’t nice! Only fools worry about what’s nice. Now sit here by me, and Dunny on the other side…’” (Davies 149). Leola is uncomfortable in the situation, but Boy actually enjoys her discomfort. Dunny, angry with Boy, talks to him after, comparing this instance to the story of Gyges and King Candaules. He explains that in the story, Candaules insists that his friend, Gyges see his wife naked. The story has two endings, both of which end badly for Candaules, with him

Related Documents

  • Superior Essays

    For instance, Hamlet in anger shouts at Gertrude, “A bloody deed; almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king, and marry with his brother” (III.iv.28-29). Gertrude for the majority of her life was dependent on King Hamlet to make decisions for her. When her husband passed away, Gertrude immediately married Claudius in hopes that she won’t be alone. It is only after Hamlet’s speech does Gertrude start to realize the sin she committed and how she betrayed her former husband by marrying his brother. Gertrude’s relationship with Claudius causes her to also be ignorant in important scenes, which eventually leads to her demise.…

    • 1233 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Espreanza notices that the beautiful women in the novel are often the ones who suffer the most at the hands of men. In the town they live in, women, are looked and treated with no respect. Some women take it, some women ignore it but very few stand up and say what they think is right. Throughout the novel we…

    • 1343 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    She has the most power of anyone in the ward, but loses some of her power because of some of the terrible misogynistic men living in the ward. Their actions lead her to believe it is necessary to hide her sexuality so that the men will still regard her with some respect. Author Theodora-Ann Hague explains Big Nurse’s thought process in saying “In order to cope in a society where she is vulnerable and powerless due to her gender, Ratched attempts to conceal her femininity totally...” (Hague,…

    • 1428 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Candide, in the beginning, glorifies the beauty of the royal heiress and devotes his life to making her his wife. The aristocratic family also opposes the marriage of the two young kids, and Miss Cunogonde does not seem to be enthusiastic about the idea of being married to the young boy. However, after being reunited with the love of his life, Candide describes her as being unaware of her grotesque appearance; “she reminded Candide of his promises in so firm a tone that the good Candide did not dare refuse her”(Voltaire 410). Candide is shocked by her appearance and describes her as growing more hideous day by day through the lines “ her eyes bloodshot, her breasts fallen, her cheeks and her arms red and scaly (Voltaire 410). Even though she is considered as less than attractive to Candide, Voltaire’s use of irony in the situation is drastic because, in the beginning, Miss Cunogonde is not eager to be married to Candide.…

    • 811 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Horney describes a situation of a woman who was "badly hurt through some great disappointment by her father". This girl will have troubles connecting with her partner because she fears every male will suspect that she wants something from them. More often than not, "the repression of aggression against the male drains all her vital energy" which causes many issues in a relationship. As for men, those who have a positive relationship with a woman, such as their mother, secretly do not trust them Horney argues. In paragraph thirteen of her work, Karen Horney described how men fear only the sexually attractive woman because he is afraid he has to be kept in bondage with her.…

    • 1214 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Here, she was saying that everyone is making fun of her for their own pleasure, including Demetrius, who was expressing words of tenderness towards her. This demonstrates that their love did not run smoothly because Helena was in a state of denial and frustration which caused her to temporarily loathe Demetrius. Additionally, this duo is relevant to Lysander’s statement because Demetrius’ affections were aimed towards Hermia for a brief period of time. During the whole marriage disapproval spewl in act one, Demetrius’ eye was on Hermia rather than Helena. This was displayed when Helena said, “For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia’s eyne, /He hailed down oaths that he was only mine.” (1.…

    • 1625 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    John still lusted for Abigail but tried so hard to seem like an innocent man the Elizabeth. She knows he cheated, but he expects Elizabeth to be ready to move on in a miniscule amount of time. Another example of sexism being not as easy to get away with is slut-shaming. In the late 1600s to 1700s, it was so easy to call a woman dirty from insignificant sexual interactions to large sexual interactions. It was disgraceful to not want to wear dresses and families disowned women for cheating or just flirting with men.…

    • 1149 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    But she is none… Her blushes is guiltiness, not modesty”(4.1.26-39). Claudio angrily told Leonato that his daughter was as rotten, from the inside, as being unchaste. Knowing that once something is rotten, means it’s irreversible to its fidelity of being ripe. He said she was nothing like an honorable woman because she had done disloyal things which separates into an infidelity, making her a disgrace. Claudio did not even discuss this matter in private, but he felt the need to tell the society and basically “slut-shaming” her in front of everyone.…

    • 1223 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Emilia did an act that Desdemona was not able to do, she saw through the illusion of her husband and turned against him as he did wrong. Emilia does not buy into the idea that women are inferior to men, this is evident when she says, "Let husbands know, / Their wives have sense like them; they see and smell, / And have their palates both for sweet and sour / As husbands have" (IV.3.92-5). Emilia even suggest that men are incapable comprehending logical thought because their minds are so fogged with sexual desire. Emilia represents feminine strength during an era when women were seen as weak, fragile, and…

    • 998 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    On the simplest level, The Bell Jar, Plath's only novel, refers to the social pressure for young women to marryin the 1950s. One of the causes of Esther's depression is her worry that she would not make a good wife due to the following reasons: She cannot cook, stands too tall, and dances poorly. Unfortunately, she thinks her positive qualities; a high degree of intelligence, ambition, a literary aptitude is actually handicaps in themarriage market. On other occasions, Esther thinks she could never be happy in any marriage regardless ofwhom she finds as a husband. The Bell Jar overflows with other symbolism; one of the most important is birth and rebirth.…

    • 1362 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays