Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Search of Stereotypes

This is inspired by an earlier entry on male stereotypes in literature . I decided to make an attempt in unearthing female stereotypes in literature. I was particularly struck by the common thread of suffering borne by most women in classical literature.Here are some of the usual suspects.

The plain and poor sufferer who lands the jackpot: You can find her in the likes of 'Jane Eyre'. It seems almost necessary that such women should be orphans with cruel aunts.Fortunately a simple twist of fate(and tonnes of good karma) is enough to turn a penurious plain Jane into a wealthy benefactress with a rich husband.

The pretty sufferer who continues to suffer: It seems cruel that classic writers should make all the pretty ones suffer but it happens all the time. 'The Beautiful and the Damned' don't belong to any economic class in particular. I found several of this kind in the typical Thomas Hardy novel.Catherine from 'Wuthering Heights' falls safely into this stereotype and so does Daisy from 'The Great Gatsby'.Classic writers have a tendency to make beautiful rebels the epitome of suffering.As though to imply,'all who rebel must suffer'.

The naive neophyte: You can find her in almost any piece of Victorian or post-Victorian satire. She is a young socialite with plenty of misplaced wit and an equal amount of charm to make up for it.She is not well read but is educated enough to make intelligent sounding conversation.She is talented enough to sing,play the piano,embroider and give the most charming tea parties. She usually has impeccable taste in clothes, accessories and men. The naive neophyte is however a threat to the general mental well being of society. Her little social experiments tend to create more of a stir than necessary. She learns, in more embarrassing ways than one, to exercise some restraint on her creativity.

The haughty socialite: Another regular like the previous stereotype. She comes with a rather vulgar inheritance, has all the dandies trailing behind her, is uncommonly beautiful and above all things a Victorian snob. Victorian literature can be quite unyielding to all its lovely suffering ladies. Several of them tend to lose their lovers to the claws of the haughty socialite.

The courtesan aka the mistress: Ever so often, men like to keep mistresses. Men of royal descent tend to satisfy themselves with courtesans while lesser royals and others alike have the pleasure of keeping mistresses. The 'other woman' also suffers in silence as she makes up for the 'deficiencies of the wife'. She is showered with dresses, trinkets and an enviable allowance but never a wedding ring. In most cases such women end up as retired recluses who train other unfortunate women to do exactly the same.

Whoever said it was easy being a woman?


anuj said...

Neato! Which one do you relate to the most? Hmm.

La Diva! said...

You decide :)