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Comparing Power in Browning’s My Last Duchess and Cheever’s The Five-Forty-Eight

Power in Browning’s My Last Duchess and Cheever’s The Five-Forty-Eight

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,” begins Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (594). The Duke of Ferrara, Italy makes a dramatic monologue to the count’s representative in poetic form. The count, being a friend of the Duke’s, has offered to provide the Duke’s next wife. The Duke informs the representative of all the habits he found annoying in his former Duchess as an instruction of the customs his next wife should and should not do; or she will find the same fate as his previous wife. He found these habits so annoying that he had her killed. The power that the Duke has starkly contrasts with the helplessness Miss Dent feels in John Cheever’s “The Five-Forty-Eight.” Blake hires Miss Dent as his secretary, after she has been in the hospital for eight months. She is very grateful to Blake for giving her the position because she has had a difficult time finding a job due to her prolonged stay in the hospital. Miss Dent forms an affection for Blake, who uses her vulnerability to carry on a one-night stand with her. The next day he has her fired while she is at lunch and he then takes the afternoon off from work. Miss Dent tries to contact Blake every day for the next few weeks, but he avoids her until she finally confronts him in hostility. The presence or absence of power in Miss Dent’s or the Duke’s lives is the impacting factor in their personalities, “love lives,” and the concluding results each of them gains.

Power, or the lack of it, forms the Duke’s and Miss Dent’s personalities. The Duke achieves his initial power from his materialistic strengths. A few of these are emphasized in lines 27-29 at which point he states “The bough of cherries some officious fool/ Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule/ She rode with round the terrace” (594). His home life includes an assemblage of servants and maids, whom he passingly refers to as “officious fool[s].” He has an enormous house that extends onto a terrace, where the Duchess rides her white mule, and then on into an array of gardens, from these orchards her cherries are picked. Not so fortunate is Miss Dent who lives in “a room that seem[s]…like a closet” (81).

Comparing the Role of Women in Indian Camp and Shiloh

Role of Women in Indian Camp and Shiloh

The women of “Indian Camp” experience a life much different from the woman in “Shiloh.” Ernest Hemingway wrote “Indian Camp” giving the women a definite role in their families while Bobbi Ann Mason wrote “Shiloh” leaving the woman’s definite family role ambiguous. Because they are responsible for the birth of the babies, the Native American women of the preceding story are the nurturers as opposed to the men. The women accept their roles and partake in their duties without any protest. On the other hand, Norma Jean’s role is not as traditional compared to the other women’s since she and Leroy have no children, she basically lives alone, and she maintains a job. While the Native American women and Norma Jean live different lives, they share the same problem of enduring the men’s ignorance to their needs. However, as the story progresses, Norma Jean realizes she wants to move on in her life, so she does not accept her situation. The Native American women continue their lifestyle not because they choose to be submissive, but because they know no other way. The women of the two stories lead totally different lives in that the Native American women accept their situation, assume submissive behavior, and endure the ignorance of men, while Norma Jean does not accept her situation, assumes assertive behavior, and does not put up with the ignorance of her husband.

Not being exposed to Norma Jean’s independent way of life, the Native American women accept their lives of nurturing and care taking. The doctor’s visit to the Indian camp shows only women helping with the delivery of the baby. As they help the doctor, the men sit up the road away from all the commotion. No signs of resent…

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…ver the period of his absence, Norma Jean develops into a stronger person from being on her own. Having Leroy home makes her realize she needs to move on and employs her assertiveness to get out of the situation. Although they remain loyal to their duties through all of the drudgery, the Native American women are strong because they lead a very important role in the family. Norma Jean also proves herself to be strong as she leaves her husband to move on to achieve more in her life. The women share different experiences, but they all exhibit strength in being the way they want to be.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. “Indian Camp.” In Out Time. New York, Scribner’s, 1955. 16,17.

Mason, Bobbi Ann. “Shiloh.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Sixth edition. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 495, 496, 500.

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