Women’s Issues in Raise the Red Lantern, the Handmaids Tale, and a Dolls House Novels


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Unlike men, women have been facing unique problems for centuries. Often times, women experience harassment and discrimination. In today’s society, females are trying to combat their tribulations through law suits and protest rallies. Literature often deals with people being unable to articulate their problems. Often, unforeseen circumstances force people to conceal their true emotions. In “Raise the Red Lantern”, The Handmaid’s Tale, and “A Doll’s House”, the main female characters find ways to escape their situations rather than deal with them.

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Songlian, the main character in the foreign film “Raise the Red Lantern”, finds unusual ways of dealing with her oppression. For example, Songlian often takes her stress out on her maid, Yan’er. Whenever Songlian feels the need to relieve her tension, she screams at Yan’er. Songlian’s treatment towards her maid results in a bitter rivalry between the two and ultimately leads to the death of Yan’er. Instead of expressing herself publicly, Songlian chooses to keep her emotions bottled up or take them out on Yan’er. Another example of this concept occurs when Songlian becomes intoxicated. Due to her unfortunate situation, Songlian chooses to drink an enormous amount of alcohol on her birthday. In her mind, she feels that she has nothing to look forward to in life. So Songlian escapes real life by drinking. This is yet another example of Songlian’s feeble attempt to escape her troubles. Furthermore, Songlian’s outlook on life becomes so bleak that she literally goes insane. Since she witnessed the death of the third mistress, she confirms her fear that there is no escaping her situation. Thus, she drives herself crazy. Therefore, we can see that Songlian uses techniques to try and escape her fate.

The next work, entitled “A Doll’s House”, deals with Nora, the main character, struggling to achieve happiness in life. While Nora lives with her husband, Torvald, she pretends to be happy and satisfied with life, but in reality, Nora lacks purpose in her life. For eight years, she never discusses her situation with Torvald because she does not want to face the truth about herself. Nora feels obligated to live her life as a caring mother and an obedient wife. Also, Nora pretends to be happy for a reason. Whether she knows it or not, Nora tries to be the ideal wife and mother by letting herself be governed by the laws of society. Because she decides to settle for what she has, her life is pointless. Nora’s first step towards achieving happiness occurs when she leaves her husband and kids in search of a better life. Although Nora’s life is not yet fulfilled, she is on her way attaining a better one.

Lastly, Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale uses different tactics to cope with her situation. Offred, the main character of the novel, is trapped within a distopian society comprised of a community riddled by despair. Though she is not physically tortured, she is mentally enslaved by the overwhelming and ridiculously powerful government. First off, Offred reminisces about the way life used to be by remembering stories about Luke, her husband, Moira, her best friend, and her daughter. As mentioned earlier, Offred lives in a horrific society which prevents her from being freed. Essentially, the government enslaves Offred because she’s a female, and she’s fertile. Remembering stories of the past provide her with temporary relief from her binding situation. Also, Offred befriends the Commander’s aide, Nick.

Offred longs to be loved by her husband, and she feels that she can find that love by being with Nick. Offred risks her life several times just to be with Nick. Feeling loved by Nick gives Offred a window of hope in her otherwise dismal life. Finally, instead of proclaiming her feelings out loud, she suppresses her feelings. The result is a series of recordings which depict her life and the things she wishes she could change. Through these examples, it is apparent that Offred cannot face her problems because of outside circumstances. Works such as “Raise the Red Lantern”, The Handmaid’s Tale, and “A Doll’s House” deal with females being unable to face their problems. A plethora of authors have written on this subject matter. Though some problems are unavoidable, one can overcome certain situations by being more assertive. Along with male domination and the laws of society, women have had to contend with other challenging and oppressing situations. Yet despite this, women in modern society are becoming more powerful.

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