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Importance of Violence in Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born

The Importance of Violence in Of Woman Born

In cultures as different as Sweden and the Yucatan, women have a part in the decision-making process during their deliveries. The Yucatan midwife emphasizes that ‘every woman has to ‘buscar la forma,’ find her own way, and that it is the midwife’s task to assist with whatever decision is made.’ This does not mean that births are painless, but that needless pain is prevented, birth is not treated as a ‘medical event,’ and the woman’s individual temperament and physique are trusted and respected.” (p.175)

Rich both begins and ends her book on the topic of violence to get our attention. Once the realization that something must change has occurred, her ideas are further developed, by implying that with some major change in the patriarchal system this violence may end, and being a mother would not be so difficult. I agree that it can be much better than this dated account of life as a mother, but as the Yucatan midwives have stated, there will still be pain. Rich would agree that woman’s individual temperament and physique need to be trusted and respected, but I take it a step further and think that this particular discussion on labor should be a metaphor for the argument of this book. The description of labor and delivery above is the way in which motherhood should be approached, substituting the partner, husband, or friend for the role of the midwife. In this situation patriarchy does not need to fall, a much more attainable goal.

By both beginning and ending with violence, Rich is making a statement that these atrocities can be mended or at least should be mended by her proposal of denouncing patriarchy. Not only may this not be possible, but it implies that once the balance of power has been shifted, this violence which is discussed at length could change. Although the balance of power could shift, abusive, violent, and uncaring parents, fathers or mothers, will still exist regardless of who is holding the power, thus leaving the burden of child rearing on the other parent, creating the same situation that we have today. By Rich placing such emphasis on the violence, in a backhanded way she gives hope that with her plan this violence will stop. Since Rich implies a solution to the problem, she, too, is carrying on a myth of sorts.

Essay – Bridge Between Worlds in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse – Bridge Between Worlds

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse illustrates a bridge between the worlds of the Victorian mother and the modern, potentially independent woman. The Victorian woman was to be absorbed, as Mrs. Ramsay is, by the task of being mother and wife. Her reason for existing was to complete the man, rather than to exist in her own right. Mrs. Ramsay certainly sees this role for herself and is disturbed when she feels, momentarily, that she is better than her husband because he needs her support to feel good about himself and the life choices he has made. Yet the end of the Victorian era saw the rise of women’s rights and greater freedom for women to excel without men or children. Adrienne Rich, in Of Woman Born, says that To the Lighthouse is about Virginia Woolf’s need to understand her own mother and to prove, through the character of Lily Briscoe, that a woman can be “independent of men, as Mrs. Ramsay is not” (Rich, p. 228).

The trauma of this transition from Victorian to modern woman is portended by Mrs. Ramsay herself, at the beginning of the story. In the first chapter, as Mrs. Ramsay defends Charles Tansley against the criticisms of her children, she muses on her desire to protect men and the “trustful, childlike, reverential” attitude that her protection inspires in men. “Woe betide the girl. . . who did not feel the worth of it, and all that it implied, to the marrow of her bones!” she exclaims to herself, thinking of the way men respect and admire her. But Woolf shows us that as Mrs. Ramsay admonishes her children for ridiculing Charles Tansley, her daughters “could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers. . . not always taking care of some man or other.”

The issue of the change from one concept of womanhood to another is not as simple as the newer generation revolting against the older; at the same time that Mrs. Ramsay’s daughters hope to be different, they admire and worship their mother for her beauty and power. Prue, the eldest daughter, proudly watches Mrs. Ramsay as she descends the staircase and feels “what an extraordinary stroke of fortune it was for her [Prue], to have her [Mrs.

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