The Corset In The Ginger Tree

Great Essays
The corset is a prominent symbol of restriction. This article of clothing takes a starring role in the Ginger Tree, where a young woman refuses to wear her corset and be caged by the limited expectations of women. Her freedom starts to evolve as she refuses to conform to the wishes of the men around her. To become ultimately independent, she begins to work in a store as a clothing designer. Her agency culminates when she opens up a corset department for Japanese women, who buy them for their stylish appeal rather than to appeal to men.
When the main character, Mary Mackenzie, boards the ship to China, she feels liberated. She had a protected childhood, and was kept sheltered by her mother. She writes to her mother “When I first agreed to marry
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She writes “I left off my new corset two days ago. Now I know I can never send this to Mama . . . I just could not get into that corset up here in the heat under the roof, which is why I left it off the first time. . . Fortunately, I have a small waist even without having it held in, and she had not noticed yet, but I will have to be careful” (Wynd 2). The removal of her corset, a symbol of female entrapment, is a key part of her evolving expression of who she is. Isolated on the ship to China, she begins a transformative process of turning into an independent, self-sufficient …show more content…
Unused to the level of agency she possesses, she regrets some of the decisions that she makes. For instance, when Mary ignores Mrs. Carswell and goes to the concert on the ship, she drinks alcohol for the first time and becomes sick. Afterwards, she writes “How can I face the other passengers tomorrow” (Wynd 19). The decision to go to the concert is a decision she knows her chaperone disapproves of, and when it goes awry, she questions her ability to make good decisions. Similarly, Mary also second-guesses her decision to not wear a corset. While at the concert, she notices a woman staring at her and suspects it’s because the woman noticed that Mary isn’t wearing her corset. Mary is extremely embarrassed by this, and regrets her decision to wear the dress she did (Wynd 16). Although Mary does not want to wear her corset, she feels pressured by society to follow the norms. Similarly, although Mary wants to be independent, she is still uncomfortable with that freedom. As the novel progresses, however, Mary becomes increasingly used to her freedom and is more confident in the decisions that she makes. For instance, she makes numerous decisions concerning her relationship with Kentaro. Although the situation is far direr, her writing does not take on tones of doubt and self-loathing in the way her previous writing

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