Widespread and increasing woman’s sense of self-worth, power to make decisions, her control over her personal life inside and outside home, and her ability to make a change is remodeling the society for better. In the 70’s and the 80’s women only had gender specific titles like that of a mother, daughter, sister and homemaker. Today, women have the power to break through the glass ceiling and make an impact, men do not have the power to dictate them anymore.
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All of us have read different versions of a very popular fairy tale during our childhood about a pretty young girl, Red Riding Hood. These stories have been written in different times, so the endings keep changing. Some stories have been written from a standpoint of a patriarchal culture but, as times changed, stories changed as well. All of them have different climax, as stories kept progressing, red riding hood was not always a helpless victim of the evil wolf, who can either be swallowed alive or depend on the hunter who comes to her rescue. She is seen to be stronger, self-sufficient, Quick witted and resourceful.
The stories reflect upon several themes. One of the most talked about social issue has been addressed in the narrative, which is gender inequality. Wolf is portrayed to be a stronger and a clever character who manages to outsmart Red, while red is presented as an innocent, naïve young girl. These two characters represent two sections of society, male and female. The disparity between their traits, represents how society perceives men and women.
Charles Perrault’s red riding hood pictures red as a weak character who is eaten by the wolf by the end of the story. Words like “pretty young girl”, “with a red hood like the ones fine ladieswear” serves as an evidence to the fact women are supposed to dress in a certain way society expects them to. Red’s mother tells her that she “must” go to see her sick grandmother and take the cake her mother baked along with her. Here, must is used as a command to her which she cannot refuse but obey, connecting this to women in society today are constantly given commands to work or take care of the child while men are free to do what they feel like. They can be suppressed and dictated.
On encountering the wolf, the girl innocently gives all the information about her trip on being asked. The wolf asked the little girl “does your grandmother live far away?” (34), along with answering his question, red innocently tells the wolf the location of her grandmother’s house because of which she put herself in danger. The wolf disguised himself as the grandmother and little red riding hood was foolish enough to believe him which eventually led to her being eaten up by the wolf. The wolf here can symbolize the patriarchal society or even the problems or criticism women had to face in the past. Even though the girl could have walked away instead of answering the wolf’s questions (which could have saved her life), she chose to tell the wolf about where she was going and why because she was naïve. The wolf’s motive was to satisfy his hunger which shows the lust men have for women and how they see them as mere objects rather than living beings to fulfill their desire. This story delivers the message that during old times young girls had to be cautious of manipulative and smooth-talking men because they were exposed to vulnerability and could be controlled and harmed by men which is also relevant to some extent to today’s date.
Women are taught to be lady like from their childhood and are expected to fulfill the household responsibilities like the little girl in “the Chinese Red Riding Hood” by Isabelle C. Chang. The mother alerts the eldest daughter to be careful before leaving, “lock the door and do not let anyone inside” (38). The mother was well acquainted with the dangers that the society could pose to a woman. Being a woman, she must have faced some sort of harm or inequality in the past, and she counts upon those experiences to protect her little girls.” The tender-hearted girls could not bear their grandmother out in the cold” (38), so the girls were deceived by the wolf because of their moral and empathetic values and the wolf still chose to hurt them, which clearly shows his lack of compassion and values. The wolf here can be compared to the men of the modern society, where they do things to serve their own motives and do not care about humanity or kindness. Fortunately, the wolf could not be successful in his evil missions Felice was able to connect the dots and figured his evil plans and alerted her sisters as well. As the world moves forward, male supremacy is less likely. As a greater number of girls are given opportunities to learn, obtain quality education, speak their mind, they pass the same thoughts and qualities to their daughters and sisters and the lesser we see men calling the shots all the time. Felice epitomizes ‘a woman belonging to the contemporary society’ who is bold and brave, she did not flinch upon seeing the wolf after lighting the candle but calmly grabs her sister Jeanne and gets her out of the room. She is smart enough to outsmart the wolf by using his greed against him the by bringing up the topic of gingko nuts. She was quick in her actions and thinking capabilities, she concocts the story about fairy nuts that would entice the wolf. She was also successful in protecting her little sister without any help. On drawing a comparison between stories of Charles Perrault and Isabelle C. Chang, the progress and growth of women can be observed in terms of, confidence, smartness, boldness, ability to protect oneself being a woman. It is a testimony to the changing role of women in the world today.
In the “company of wolves” by Angela Carter, the story stands apart and plays a big role in highlighting the changing role of women in a progressing society. Unlike the traditional stories where she succumbs to the wolf, in this story red is not naive, she is courageous enough to risk her life, cunning, sexually mature, speaks her mind and is not scared of the wolf. In this story wolf symbolizes seductive men who are dangerous and would do anything to accomplish their sexual desires. Red riding hood represents women, who embrace their sexuality, fearless, intelligent, opportunist and domineering.
Upon meeting the wolf for the first time, Red was surprisingly calm, she does not flinch, she does not flinch, instead starts having a conversation with him and indulges into a game for a kiss which reveals that women no more have to hide their sexual desires. The girl is highly sexualized in the story “her breasts have begun to swell” (58). She removes her blouse. She uses her sexuality to her self-defense to take full control of the situation which symbolizes that women today are opportunist and would seize whatever opportunities they can to serve their interests. Red’s interest was to protect herself and to fulfill her sexual desires. This story also reflects upon some ideas of the patriarchal societies as wolf does not care of the old grandmother and kills her but does not kill the young girl. Young women can be sexualized and serve interests of men while older women do not.
Throughout the stories, the character of red keeps modifying and developing for the better. All the stories have different ending showing has red has grown smarter, bolder and stronger and how she develops the ability to fight the wolf. Different versions of red riding hood have been written by authors from different countries but the theme remains the same among all of them which is sexual inequality, violence and male dominance. As we are approaching the modern era the situation and persisting problems have been changing, women have the right to question men and do the jobs they were doing in the previous years. Sexual inequality still exists but like red riding hood women in today’s world are ready to question what is wrong and accept what is right.
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