The Bell Jar – A Fig Tree

fig tree

The Bell Jar, published in 1963, presented issues of power and control. The story is about Esther Greenwood and the problems presented to women. She faces the issue of control, sexual double standards and maintaining her identity which are portrayed in an overarching analogy of a fig tree.

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Homer’s Women: Helen vs Penelope

greek helmet

The Iliad and The Odyssey are easily the most famous epics known to the modern world. With the introduction to Greek mythology comes a crash course of Homer’s stories that have stood the test of time and captured the imagination of so many. Both children’ and adult books alike have rewritten the episode of The Iliad and Odyssey in a different character’s point of view.

Homer primarily focuses on male protagonists, like many authors of mythology (Read my article on Hindu Mythology). His female characters are cast in the shadows. Even Helen, the woman who made him famous, is shown in a passive light. However, Homer does show growth in his writing over the course of both books and begins to spotlight the strength of women in his second book, redeeming his voice by giving one to women.

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Gone with the Wind: Scarlett Stepping Up

Gone with the Wind is a hundred-year-old classic. Much like Jane Austen (Read my Article on What Emma and Elizabeth Taught Me), Margaret Mitchell paints a story of chivalry and class that is replaced with the hard-faced American culture in place today. Mitchell shows the fall of the southern belle and rise of the concept of modern day American women who demand equality from their counterparts.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Silent Rebellion


Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian society ruled by religious extremists. The men are assigned jobs by the government and women are dependent on their husbands for everything. Women cannot have bank accounts must adhere to strict dress code. The color of a woman’s dress determines her social standing and financial status. All the citizens are threatened by the ever-watching “eye”. At any point in time a van may pull up with an eye on the side and drag a citizen inside, never to be seen again.

The regime even goes as far as to punish women that have ever been divorced or remarried. (This is pertaining to choices women made before the regime took over. Under current law women are not allowed to divorce or remarry.) Divorced or remarried women are outcasts to society and are given the lowest possible position as a Handmaid, if they are lucky enough to not be killed. The Handmaids are assigned to live in the houses of government officials and their sole purpose is to bear children for these men and families. There is a population crisis and any woman that does not have social standing can become a handmaid to avoid other menial labor jobs.

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What I Learned from Jane Austen’s Emma and Elizabeth

flower book

Jane Austen novels are a portal into classical England. Parties, gossip and chivalry dominate the social sphere. My personal favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Though all of Austen’s works are memorable and feature female protagonists I found Emma and Elizabeth the most relatable to myself. Both are strong women without any intention to conform to societies expectations of them. While Elizabeth only plans to marry for love Emma does not plan to marry at all, both very strong viewpoints for a woman to hold when her identity was supposed to be tied to her marriage. Despite their flaws both women had many lessons to teach:

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Hindu Mythology: Sacrifice and Strength of Sita and Draupadi

traditional wall art

Indian mythology has served primarily to promote patriarchy. It moves women to bottom of the social ladder, and does not allow them to have their own identity. Women are depicted as completely dependent on their fathers, husbands and sons. From India comes the epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Each, individually, longer than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (Read my article on Homer’s depiction of women in his stories) combined, tell stories of warriors that battled demons, the win of good over evil, the importance of karma and dharma.  Yet it does not give due credit to the strong women that drove these heroic men into action.

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