Honors English 11, Period 2
24 May 2012
Finding the Power Within
In the modern world, women have more independence and self reliance than ever before. Women are realizing that they can be powerful if they take initiative to rebel against submissive situations. A critic named Lourdes Arciniega describes women in modern life: “Women have traditionally remained within the domestic sphere, taking care of family and home, feeling marginalized and unable to access jobs in the public arena” (Arciniega par. 1). Many women today do not want to simply be a housewife; they want to be able to have a job to be independent and self sufficient and not have to have somebody else support them. In both Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a female character finds the strength within herself to rebel against her situation to become less dependent on male characters and become a self reliant, independent woman. The women in both novels progress from being in a submissive situation where they rely on a male character, to learning how to rebel to the situation, and finally becoming self reliant and independent women.
At the onset of their situations, Lou Ann from The Bean Trees and Skeeter from The Help both rely on male figures in their own separate submissive situations. Lou Ann and Skeeter each deal with their situations in their own way. Lou Ann is in a situation where she feels that she needs to rely on Angel in order to survive. She does not leave Angel because she assumes that a divorce would naturally happen (Kingsolver 34). Lou Ann is afraid to anger Angel because she relies on him to provide for her and their son Dwayne Ray. She does not have the strength to rebel against him so she does not take any action to change her situation and take control of her life in order to improve her and her son’s life. Lou Ann has multiple opportunities to remove herself from the situation with Angel, yet she does not take initiative to do this until much later in the novel. To Lou Ann, Angel is her life support. Lou Ann knows that she is not happy with her life with Angel but she needs him in order for her and Dwayne Ray to survive. Lou Ann has thought multiple times about divorcing Angel due to the way that he treats her but she generally does not do anything about her situation until later in the novel (Kingsolver 33-34). Lou Ann wants to get away from Angel and how he treats her but she is afraid of the consequences that she may have to face. She is unsure how she should deal with her current submissive situation since she does not have the strength to rebel against him. She still feels that she needs Angel in her life to support Dwayne Ray and her.
Skeeter is in a situation in which she still relies on her parents. Skeeter’s perspective on some subjects is drastically different than her mother’s. However, Skeeter does not want to go against what her ailing mother wants her to say but she wants to do what she desires to do with her life and become a journalist (Stockett). Skeeter wants to be a journalist for the New York Times Newspaper but her parents, her mom especially, want her to get married and not follow her dream of starting a career as a journalist. Skeeter wants to make her parents happy, but she also wants to do what she thinks is best for herself. Many of Skeeter’s friends are married and Skeeter’s mom, Charlotte Phelan, uses this fact to try to persuade Skeeter into getting married. Ann Hornaday states, “Skeeter is under her own pressures to hew to traditional definitions of Southern womanhood and get married like her friends” (Hornaday par. 8). However, Skeeter does not want to get married and her mother’s attempts fail. Skeeter wishes to remain single so that she does not have to go back to having to rely on someone to support her. Skeeter wants to be a completely independent woman, but her mother is preventing that from happening. Due to the conflicting points of view…