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Sexism/Feminism on "The Applicant" Sylvia Plath
Transcript of Sexism/Feminism on "The Applicant" Sylvia Plath
The Effect of the Contradictions of Social Sexism and the Feminist Movement of the 1950s and 1960s on "The Applicant" by Sylvia Plath
(in the persona of Sylvia Plath)
Individual Oral Presentation
February 24, 2014-March 3, 2014
The historical context: Sexism and Feminism
Analysis of "The applicant"
The effect of feminism/sexism on "the applicant"
The 1950s and 1960s
Social Conflicts Regarding Gender and Identity Roles
After World War II, the "Nuclear Family" came to social power
constrained women into a domestic gender role
Influence from post-war GI Bill and construction of suburbs
Framing the Mind of Society
Social conventions (marriage) and pursuit of individual success were priorities
Art and free expression became a way to escape pressures of society
Conflict of free expression and capitalism
(e.g. the "Hippie" movement)
In response to social pressures, feminist and civil movements came about
The Feminist Movement
Concerned with the social and economic status of women
Questioning the norms
Conflict between sexism and feminism of the time
Influence on the Writing
Writing is influenced and concerned with culture, society, and current events
First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,
Stitches to show something's missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand
To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed
To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit -
Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they'll bury you in it.
Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start
But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.
It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it's a poultice.
You have an eye, it's an image.
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
Portraying a man interviewing a woman for the position of marriage
like a job interview (consumerism/capitalism)
most have 5 lines each
except stanzas 7 & 8
No formal rhyme scheme
Diction (harsh and raw)
Imagery (symbolic and reflective)
"Are you our sort of person?"
"Our" indicates that the speaker is representing views of society
"A glass eye, false teeth, or a crutch,/ a brace, or a hook,/ rubber breasts or a rubber crotch
Concerned about physical appearances, fitting into society's expectations
"Stitches to show something's missing?"
He is concerned about if the woman damaged and fixed; there is a tone of ignorance
The process and role was stressful for interviewee; emotional pressure is put on the woman; harsh response
"Open your hand./Empty? Empty. Here is a hand"
Hand= marriage; Marriage was a priority; woman without marriage was empty
"To fill it and and willing/ To bring teacups and roll away headaches"
reference to domestic work; cynically mocking the role of women in marriage and society
"Is guaranteed/To shut your eyes at the end"
Woman and man (marriage) will be together until death
"I notice you are stark naked./How about this suit-"
Without a husband, a woman is naked, exposed, vulnerable;
He offers his suit=himself
"It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof/ Against fire and bombs through the roof./ Believe me, they'll bury you in it."
He will protect her from the world. Marriage is security... he begins to offer/sale himself (consumerism)
"Now your head, excuse me, it empty."
The man is implying that it is his job to fill the woman's head. He will conform since she is "naked"
"A living doll, everywhere you look./ It can sew, it can cook,/ It can talk, talk, talk"
The man will shape the woman into something of value. She is his doll; he controls her
"My boy, it's your last resort./ Will you marry it, marry it, marry it?"
It is the woman's last chance at something worthy in her life (marriage); He begins to beg for "it;"
Men need women; it is a coexisting relationship between genders, not a power struggle
Connection between historical context and gender roles to the meaning of the poem
Sexist standards + feminist movement = mocking of women roles in marriage in "The Applicant"
Comments on the gender roles
Providing Arguments against it
Comment at the end of the poem:
Men should not be dominating women and society, both genders rely on each other and co-exist
Consumerism and capitalism of the time hinted in the "interview;" selling the idea of marriage
in the Life of Sylvia
Written on October 11, 1962
Published in "Ariel"
Recently separated from Ted Hughes
(Plath commits suicide 4 months later)
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Jones, Gerald P., and Carol Nagy Jacklin. "Changes in Sexist Attitude Toward Women During Introductory Women's and Men's Studies Course." Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 18.9/10 (May 1988): 611-22. Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society. University of Southern California. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
Napikoski, Linda. "1960s Feminist Activities." About.com: Women's History. About.com, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
Plath, Sylvia. Ariel. London: Faber & Faber, 1965. Print.
"Tavaana." Tavaana. E-Collaborative for Civic Education, 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.
Wagner-Martin, Linda, and Anne Stevenson. "Two Views of Plath's Life and Career." The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English (1994): n. pag. Modern American Poetry. Oxford University Press. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
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