Free «Katherine Mansfield's Writing and Modern Society» UK Essay Paper
Personal happiness depends on choices each person makes. Though this truth seems simple, people did not always think like that. In the distant past, people believed that not all individuals were capable of making independent decisions. As a rule, that assumption was based on gender inequality. British literature of the Victorian era is a great example of it. Nevertheless, it could not last forever. Modernism marks the gradual shift in social conscience. It highlights the negative effects of overdependence on men. While some writers like Virginia Woolf encourage rebellion against the patriarchal society, others show the unfortunate results of it. This is particularly true about “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield. In the short story, she discusses passivity of women and its consequences. Though this theme was very popular at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries, it is not so at the present day. The work of Katherine Mansfield seems absolutely irrelevant to 2015 because men and women have equal rights in modern society.
To begin with, both men and women can provide for their family nowadays. Since women gain more power in the workforce and their families, men cease to have authority. As most fathers work hard to earn money, they are absent most of the time. Thus, women are the ones who have a profound impact on the lives of children in the family. To add even more, women have to provide for the family since the divorce rates are high in the 21st century (Sedghi and Rogers). As a rule, children stay with their mothers; therefore, they grow up without their fathers. When the father is constantly or often absent in the family, he loses his authority. The mother learns to make all the decisions instead of him (Sedghi and Rogers). When the mother makes all decisions, she gains more authority in the family. Accordingly, children also have more respect and obedience to their mother than to their father. This attitude differs from the one Constantia and Josephine have to their father. It seems that they are afraid to do something that their father would disapprove. For example, they have to tolerate their maid Kate. Apparently, the father hired that woman, and the sisters keep quiet about it while he is alive. Moreover, they have to stop the organ-grinder in he street because it annoys their father. They are so well-trained that continue to obey their father even after his death. It is difficult to imagine something like this nowadays. When fathers are absent in the families, their children might not even know what annoys them. Therefore, modern children are hardly similar to Mansfield’s characters.
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Furthermore, fathers do not arrange the marriage of their daughters nowadays. According to modern beliefs, girls have a right to choose their life partners themselves. No one limits their freedom of choice in these matters. Thus, a girl can choose a young man of any origin, color of skin, and social status. In turn, parents have to respect the decision of their children even if they do not like their choice. Meanwhile, Katherine Mansfield shows a different reality of the Victorian society. In the society described by the author, fathers may influence the choice of their daughters to a great degree. If a father does not want his daughter to communicate with someone, he may prohibit it. As Mansfield writes, “there had been nobody for them to marry. There had been father’s Anglo-Indian friends before he quarreled with them. But after that, she and Constantia never met a single man” (114). It means that as soon as their father limited their chances to meet someone, they did not dare to find a man. This situation seems strange to modern teenagers as they choose their loved ones themselves. Thus, it is not relevant to people living in 2015.
Moreover, modern society provides women with equal job opportunities and access to education. In the Victorian society, gender roles were strictly divided. Men were the main breadwinners and decision-makers in the family (Marsh). In turn, women had to conform to the ideals of domesticity. They had to be good wives and mothers. Apart from that, men were the ones who could receive the education. That situation was based on the assumption that women were intellectually inferior and could not grasp the intellectual depth of different disciplines (Griffin 252). Women could not hope for education though sometimes they were literate. However, it was a rare case as women were expected to be good housewives and their main occupation was to raise their children (Marsh). The interesting thing is the readers do not know who Constantia and Josephine are. IIt is hard to guess where they work or which education they have. Most likely, their father was the one who provided for them. If they lived today, they would probably have some job. Therefore, they would not have to worry about how to live after their father’s death. They would have unrestricted access to work and have the same rights as men.
Finally, women have the same freedom to make decisions as men in the 21st century. Modern women are free to decide what they want from life and have all the possibilities to make their dreams come true. If a person wants to have a rewarding job, he or she can search for it until he or she finds it. Similarly, if an individual wants to be the customer of some company, it is he or she who decides how long it will last. Moreover, people can decide with whom they want to talk and avoid undesired communication if needed. That is something unthinkable in “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.” In the short story, the sisters suffer from indecisiveness. It seems the easy things pose a challenge of choice to them. They are unsure about the appropriate price for the funeral. Similarly, they doubt whether to fire their maid or not. What is even worse, they are afraid to say “no” to other people. They do not dare to dismiss the clergyman, nurse Andrews, and their maid Kate. They are very different from modern girls. Nowadays, females are not afraid to speak their mind and stop communicating with people they do not like.
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To conclude, the short story “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield is irrelevant to 2015 because men and women have equal rights in modern society. Firstly, both men and women can provide for their families. As a result, men lose their authority. More often, women become the main authority in the family. Secondly, fathers do not have the influence on the marriage of their daughters. Instead, they leave the choice to their children. Thirdly, modern society provides women with equal access to work and education. Finally, women have the same freedom to make decisions as men in the 21st century. Taking into account all these points, it is clear that the work of Katherine Mansfield is not relevant to people of 2015. However, the book offers an interesting insight into the way women lived in the past.
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