What Defines A Woman In Legends And Literature?

Sushreeta Nayak
2016 An International Refereed English e-Journal Impact Factor: 2.24 (IIJIF)   unpublished
What differentiates a Woman from a Man? Is it the anatomical-construct of their bodies that lays down the boundary and principles of differentiation between the two? Or do the sociallyconstruct rules and orders of mannerisms that has been dictated, ironically, by men and followed by women since time immemorial, which unveils the apparent distinction between the two groups? What exactly forms the basis of this distinction which has been, rigorously, followed by both males and females of the
more » ... females of the human society; taught since their wee days of childhood and 'obeyed and observed' till their last breath of their existence on earth? The 'ideal' society functions upon a few accumulations of sweeping generalisations, which have been regulated under the cover of 'rules and regulations' dictating what is expected from an 'ideal' Man and a Woman & which must be strictly adhered to by both genders to uphold the moral fabric of the society. A Man is expected to be dominant-physically and psychologically; that is, being physically active, muscular and strong, rationally and intellectually superior to its counterpart, in short, essentially 'masculine'. A Woman, on the other hand, must be physically delicate and soft to the touch, pleasing to the eye, sensual yet innocent, timid and must never voice any protestations to whatsoever is required, nay demanded, of her by the male humans of the society; all of which were attributed to the umbrella-term 'feminine'. These distinct characteristics www.TLHjournal.comThe Literary Herald have been followed by the generations of civilisations, rigorously and blindly. But, to what extent, are these generalisations upon humankind in the disguise of 'social norms' valid and accurate representation of humans? Has not such principles, followed and propagated, by the society, rendered the 'ideal' society into a patriarchal world? These notions of 'social norms' has, inevitably, seeped into the realm of Literature. The world of Literature, till recently, had long been dominated by the male writers of the subsequent eras. The female characters, hence, were observed and depicted by the men of the literary establishment in broad strokes of generalities. They were either seen as quintessential virtuous, innocent, sensuous, meek and flawless to a fault; or they were the epitome of evil temptress-the female character who is extremely sensual but possess questionable sense of morality. The former were the projections of the men's desires, the latter were the legends upon which men's sweet nightmares were built. The former is the gentler, and weaker, sex; whereas, the latter, is a villain. These idealised and nightmarish versions of Female were promoted in the myths and mythologies, long before the advent of the genres of Literature we read now. The Male deities were the example of strong, just, benevolent and valiant warrior-Odin and Thor of the Norse mythology, for instance, or the powerful Zeus, the unimaginably strong Hercules. However, the female deities were a different species, as treated in various Mythologies, the ranged from the angelic and virtuous to the maleficent and destroyer of humankind. The 'pure and proper' female as established in mythology were the popular Muses of the art, Aceso-the mythological figure personifying the 'healing process', so on and so forth. On the flip side, there were several female mythological characters who were considered to be the personification of ,as mentioned above, the 'Evil Temptress', popular of whom were Circe, Siren, Nemesis, Helen and numerous other such mythological figures. It is, therefore, of little doubt that Literature, which draws heavily upon such legendary myths, could ignore the well-laid path of general distinction between male-female dynamic and the dichotomy of female characters. The women were simply an 'idealised' version of women, www.TLHjournal.comThe Literary Herald