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The Role Of Gender Essay

1725 words - 7 pages

Modern-day Western society holds excessively strict views about gender roles in society, specifically when concerning who performs certain moves in the intricate dance of relationships. Many stereotypes have developed due to different pieces of literature and society in general. Men court women and rescue them from danger. Women learn the necessary skills to become a proper housewife and mother. For a man to successfully complete the requirements of his “part” in the relationship, he must provide for his spouse and assert his dominance as the head of the household. The woman must then complete the dance by deferring to her husband’s wishes and presenting the perfect picture of a cultured, ...view middle of the document...

Clearly the aggressor in the relationship, the nameless woman begins to provide for Lanval, promising him that “she would still find enough for him” no matter how much he gave or spent (Marie 1770). By characterizing the fair maiden as the provider and controller of the relationship, Marie has obviously granted her the power in the lai, going against what would have been considered the social norm for the time. The nameless woman dictates the terms and conditions of their relationship, informing Lanval that if he tells anyone of their secret relationship, he “would never be able to see … or possess” her (Marie 1770). Marie de France utilizes diction such as “allowed” and “commanded” to display the authority and control the nameless woman wields (Marie 1770). As a result, Lanval becomes fully dependent on her wealth.
His lavish lifestyle soon gains the queen’s notice and she tries to seduce him. However, in a fit of anger, Lanval harshly rejects her advances, not only revealing his relationship with the fair maiden, but also admitting that he has more loyalty towards her than his king. Put on trial for treason, the barons have to decide whether he should be banished for his actions. As the verdict is about to be delivered, Lanval’s beloved comes riding in on a “white palfrey” and rescues him from his fate, riding off to “Avalon” with her (Marie 1774-1775). Here, Marie de France takes a common stereotype and reverses the gender roles again, having the woman play the role of the knight in shining armor that rides in on a white steed. Throughout the entire lai, Marie attempts to show that women can not only fulfill the role of provider but also that men can be the submissive partner. The dancers in the relationship tango do not have to adhere to strict definitions of their gender roles. If things change, society will still be able to function normally with no problem. Marie’s general message states that the oppression of women is not needed to have a properly functioning society. Although gender roles may serve some purpose, Marie de France asserts that relationships must have a certain amount of pliability and not strictly follow social norms.
Chaucer also deviates from social norms and writes a tale in which Alison, the Wife of Bath, holds the position of dominance in her relationships. To introduce Alison in his General Prologue, Chaucer enumerates the qualities that proclaim her sexual prowess, such as the gaps between her teeth, and describes her ostentatious manner of dress. The reader then finds discovers that “five men in turn had taken her to wife” (Chaucer l. 448). Chaucer establishes Alison as a character that veers away from the preconceived idea of a medieval woman. He goes even further in setting Alison apart from the standard woman in The Wife of Bath’s Prologue. Similarly to the unnamed woman in Marie de France’s lai, Alison forces herself into the role of the aggressor. She marries her first three husbands because they happened...

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