Woman by G.K. Chesterton
In Woman by G.K. Chesterton we have the theme of gender roles, chauvinism and embarrassment. Taken from his All Things Considered collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Chesterton may be in dispute with the opposite sex. He feels as though they have a place at home (and nowhere else). They are subservient to the man of the house and as such perform what would be considered the menial tasks of a household. Particularly the task of baking and cooking. Two tasks that Chesterton does not believe he is obliged to perform. Due to his role as the man of the house. It is as though women would be seen and not heard when visitors come to the house. With all the glory of a feast going to Chesterton. In reality Chesterton has an archaic view on the role of women. Though it is worth noting that his views would have been seen as the normal at the time the essay was written.
Chesterton also appears to believe in his own ego and his own self-importance putting his importance in himself above the importance of his wife. By calling the essay ‘Woman’ Chesterton may also be trying to single out one woman (his wife) as being a representative of all woman. An unfair comparisons as Mrs Chesterton is herself a unique woman who may not be under the influence of Chesterton. Chesterton leads a happy life with the reader suspecting that this may be due to his wife’s submissive input into their lives. At no stage in the essay is Chesterton challenged successfully by a woman and if this does occur he may very well have an answer to the woman who challenges him. But it would be based on archaic gender roles. The bottom line is that Chesterton does not believe he can be beaten by the mind of a woman and he may also stay clear of woman who are his academic peers. Afraid that he might be embarrassment by them. Society at the time was changing dramatically and Chesterton may not have been able to adjust to these changes.
Throughout Chesterton’s essay his demonizing of the female characters is noticeable. He gives the woman in the story no intelligence and sees nothing wrong with women working all day in the kitchen. In today’s terms Chesterton would be deemed upon to be a chauvinistic man who might not necessarily know how to make bread as the other women in the kitchen are making. If anything Chesterton is leaving himself woefully unprepared for the women’s suffragette movement. A time where woman not only got the vote but pushed themselves up the ladder of male chauvinism. In reality Chesterton does not take the plight of the ordinary woman seriously. He sees his life as running perfectly. Thanks to the unaccredited works and efforts on the women in his life and surroundings.
The end of the essay is also interesting as Chesterton’s true feelings about women surface. He considers women to be despotic. Though the reader realises that Chesterton may feel this way as he knows that he has lost control over his own environment. Change for anyone is hard and Chesterton is no exception. He knows he has to carry on and accept the change that is occurring in order for himself to survive. That doesn’t meant that Chesterton will go out of his way to help women but he will not stunt their progress. Chesterton is like the other men of his generation who were male chauvinists and who had to give way to a movement that was greater than them and more widely supported. On this occasion the female would stand outside the kitchen and march for equal rights. And usually achieving them. While ironically Chesterton was never able to leave the kitchen. For he felt there was no need to do so. The kitchen was an environment like his home. That Chesterton controlled or at least the thought he did. The real victory’s in the story are the woman who persevered through any obstacle in order to achieve something that was important to them. If Chesterton would have learnt. His outlook on life may have changed sooner than it was forced to. As too would the opinions of many middle class men who were in agreement with Chesterton.