The Impact of A Patriarchal Society on Women (Essay Sample)


Stories fictional and factual contain essential messages about the role of women in society. The Lottery, The Great Gatsby, and Hamlet are examples of fictional texts that show the impact of a patriarchal society on women. Often, in a patriarchal society, women’s fate is decided upon by the men surrounding them. Through the use of a feminist lens, this essay will examine how the women’s fate in these texts is controlled and affected directly by men’s actions.

When looking at The Lottery by Shirley Jackson through a feminist lens, women’s roles are clearly defined, and the village is a patriarch. This is evident in the women’s mannerisms, who are described as dainty and are only spoken about in relation to the men. The men have social power and are traditionally expected to choose the Lottery pieces of paper on behalf of their entire family. For example, when Mr. Summers explains the Lottery to the villagers, he states, “I'll read the names--heads of families--first, and the men come up and take a paper out of the box”(Jackson). Through this quote, it is clear that the men are responsible for picking the pieces of paper. The paper is not only a literal object that decides who gets pelted with rocks, but it can also be symbolic of a person’s fate. The fact that the women do not draw their own pieces of paper tells of the patriarch within this village. In the action of picking the paper for their families, the men are responsible for the fate of their women. Therefore the action of the men will control what happens to a woman. 

Connecting back to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the feminist lens can be applied to Myrtle’s experience as a woman in a patriarchal society. Similar to the women in The Lottery, Tom and her husband control Myrtle’s fate. For example, when Nick is in Myrtle’s apartment, Cathrine says, “‘When they do get married,’ continued Catherine, ‘they’re going west to live for a while until it blows over.’” (Fitzgerald 37). This quote showcases dramatic irony, as Tom does not leave Daisy, nor does he have the intention of marrying Myrtle. Here, Catherine is pointing out that Myrtle is going to get married and that she and Tom will leave. This portrays the fact that Myrtle cannot achieve her dreams of becoming upper class without Tom. Since the only way for her to gain status as a woman is marriage, her fate is directly interlinked with Tom’s decision. If Tom had married her, she would have had a better fate. But in the end, she dies as a result of a man’s actions. Tom does not divorce Daisy and leaves Myrtle waiting for his actions to create a better future for her. Similar to the women in The Lottery, her destiny is affected and halted as a result of a man’s actions. Therefore, her fate is affected and controlled by the actions of a man. 

In relation to Hamlet by William Shakspeare, when placing the feminist lens on Ophelia it can be seen that she is also at the mercy of the patriarch in which she lives. Just like the women from The Lottery and Myrtle, she is impacted by what Hamlet does. For example, when Ophelia’s father has died at the hands of Hamlet, she says, “Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me, You promised me to wed.” He answers, “So would I ha' done, by yonder sun, An thou hadst not come to my bed.” (Hamlet, IV.v.59-66). In this quote, Ophelia creates a story about a man and a woman. She uses this as a comparison to her situation. She sees the way that men act, and it has affected her greatly. Her fate was in the hands of Hamlet as he promised to marry her, but in the end, he did not. This line exaggerates the fact that a woman's fate is determined by a man’s actions. A man will promise a woman that he will marry her if they have intercourse, but when she does, he says, I would have married you if you didn’t have intercourse with me. This conveys the fact that a woman’s future, who she marries and how she is treated socially, is impacted by a man’s word and action. Ophelia is considered un-pure for having intercourse before marriage, but she was told that she would get married if she slept with him. The actions of Hamlet have greatly impacted her emotional well-being, and she is disturbed. Therefore, her destiny and future were directly controlled and impacted by the actions of a man. 

In conclusion, the women in The Lottery do not pick their own papers, Myrtle from The Great Gatsby is at mercy of Tom’s actions, and Ophelia is directly impacted by Hamlet’s unkept promises and murder. In conclusion, it can be said that when applying the feminist lens to these three texts, there are established patriarchies in which the actions of a man directly impacts the destiny of a woman. Therefore, stories fictional and factual contain messages about the role of women and showcase patriarchy within society.

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