Activities for Women and Family Issues

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 8: Women and Family Issues Forum. I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send your grade to you privately, by email.

Hedda (Hedda Gabler) and Chandara ("Punishment") both choose to die rather than deal with families and societies that they cannot endure. Compare/contrast the two women, the mens' worlds they live in, and the final choices they make. Support your ideas with relevant examples from both texts.  
Mahasweta's disturbing tale, "Breast-Giver," has some interesting parallels with the story of the Old Woman in Candide. Both Jashoda and the Old Woman give of their bodies to nourish others, both women are mistreated by society, both women suffer terrible hardships, and both stories are narrated in a sarcastic, even mythic manner.  Compare/ contrast these two women and their fates. Support your ideas with specific examples from both stories.
Pirandello says in his "Preface" to Six Characters that the Mother is all nature, while the Father is all mind. Consider the Mother as a model of woman as mother, woman as nature, and compare her life and her fate to that of Jashoda in "Breast-Giver," another woman completely defined by her role as mother, mother goddess, mother nature. Compare and contrast the two women's lives and fates. Support your ideas with specific, relevant examples from the two texts.
Matryona, the mother figure in "Matryona's Home," has a great deal in common with Jashoda in "Breast-Giver." Both women give everything they have to others and die wretchedly, not even appreciated by those to whom they have given their lives. Write a comparison/contrast of these two giving women and the people who take from them, giving nothing back in return. Support your ideas with specific examples from the two stories.
"The Barking," and Hedda Gabler both present relationships between dominant academic males and the women who meet their needs and/or depend on them. See if you can find any interesting parallels and or striking differences between the male/female relationships in these two stories. Support your ideas with examples from both texts.
Miss Juliana Tesman, in Hedda Gabler is happy to sacrifice anything and everything to make sure her nephew George Tesman is happy. Thea is similarly inclined towards Loevborg. Ibsen quite clearly approves of these women as the right sort of women, loving, giving, uncomplaining helpmates to the men in their lives. Mahasweta, just as clearly, is furious about the fate of the "Breast-Giver," and her angry, sarcastic tone makes the story doubly disturbing to read. Do you have any insights into why Mahasweta is so angry about Jashoda's fate? Do you have any insights into why Ibsen so approved of the "giving" women in his play? Compare and contrast them, supporting your ideas with specific examples from both texts.
On the surface, "Breast-Giver" is so extremely bitter and disturbing that it is easy to dismiss as the sort of thing that could never happen here and now. However....think more closely about what Jashoda does and why she does it. Have you ever known a woman who acted out of similar motives? What happened to her? Compare her experience with that of Jashoda, looking for parallels and interesting differences. Support your ideas with specific examples from the story and from the woman you know.
Select one of the four stories about women from Unit 3, Task 7 ("Punishment," "The Barking," "Matryona's Home" and "The Breast Giver") and make up your own interesting question about it. Answer your question using plenty of specific examples from the story to support your ideas.
"Punishment" and "Breast-Giver" are both compassionate stories about the suffering of Bengali women within their traditional, rural families and society. Tagore's tone is ironic, while Devi's is bitter and sarcastic. Devi's story is also the more radical, the more feminist, and the more angry of the two. Compare/ contrast these two stories and the different sorts of messages you think the two authors are trying to get across about the situation of repressed women. Support your ideas with examples from both stories.
If you want to explore women's roles in India further, watch the marvelous (although occasionally violent and sexual) video, Bandit Queen, which is actually based on the life of a lower caste Indian woman who was raped, became a bandit, was caught, went to jail, learned to read, was released from jail and became politically active. Compare/ contrast this amazing woman's life story in the film with the passive solution Chandara chooses in "Punishment." Do you think such a choice was possible for Chandara? Why or why not? Use examples from the film and the story to support your ideas.
Leave it to Me by Bharati Mukherjee is a stunning, disturbing novel that blends aspects of the Indian Devi goddess myth with the ancient Greek Electra myth. The heroine, originally from India, moves from New York State to San Francisco pursuing knowledge of her origins, with deadly consequences to those around her. If this intrigues you, get the book, read it, and then write an essay commenting on the roles and myths of women in the story. Or, if you prefer, write about the multi-cultural blend of myths and settings. Be sure to have some interesting point to your essay. (Available as a paperback: Fawcett Columbine, Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, 1997. ISBN 0-449-00396-5. $12,95 in USA.) Note: This Activity can be worth double credit if you write a thoughtful, well-developed essay. If you are trying for double credit, be sure to write that at the top of your Activity.


(c) Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; updated: 08/11/2005