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English Essay – Open Secrets

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1433
  • Category: England

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Women, throughout the course of history, have had a long line of events mirroring their oppression, may it be in the departments of rights or within the span of stereotypical judgement. Therefore, the story entitled “Open Secrets” by Alice Munro articulates why male sexuality and perversion is the cause to women’s oppression. This can be seen through numerous events of the story, such as the oppression of women such as Maureen, Marian and Heather and also due to the perverted behavioral allusion of the male characters such as Mr. Stephens, Slater and Siddicup.

On a first note, the case of women oppression can be articulated through the protagonist, Maureen’s, experiences and self-identification. One of the main points can be seen when discussing her inability to have children. The story discusses this fact whilst elaborating on how her sex life has been affected due to this mean. Having children is the essence of womanhood, this symbolises the fact that the woman will eventually have kids, that she will gain the ability to become a mother due to her biological composition. By taking away this right, Maureen is more frowned upon and less “feminine”. Another aspect of women oppression can be noted through Maureen and her husband’s relationship.

The story describes her husband as taking her “from the back” and of forcing her to “dirty talk”. These means elaborate on how he sexually abuses her and how she is discontent with his way of treating her. The man in this case, due to his sexuality, is taking advantage of her, oppressing her for his own personal desires. There’s also the fact that describes her change in personality and how Maureen looks on a general basis. Maureen is described as being tall, thin, expensively dressed, young, etc. These descriptions all go to show to what extent she is “feminine” in her outer appearance.

It is articulated that she looks like “the perfect woman”. As for her personality, Alice Munro states that although Maureen was wild and somewhat adventurous while young, as she has grown up she has changed to follow the norms. This shows to what extent Maureen has felt oppressed by not only men but also to social norms which force her into acting a certain way for the pleasure of men. All in all, we could say that Maureen has experienced a great deal of difficulty through her life and could elaborate on how most of this oppression may be due to male sexuality and social norms.

Through the events taken from the book and the characters we came to an understanding that the perversion of male sexuality leads to female oppression. Lawyer Stephens who is one of the main characters in the story is sexually and verbally abusive, he is a well-respected man in the eyes of the society but in his wife’s eyes he’s nothing but violent and cruel. “He would speak to her in a curt and menacing way and sometimes push and prod her, even trying to jam his fingers into from behind”.

This quote taken from the book shows that Maureen was sexually abused and physically abusive by the man she truly loved. He would not only abuse her physically but he would also abuse her verbally, humiliate her, make her seem weak and torture her mentally “Sometimes she would pester him a little and he would say, “Now, Maureen, What’s all this this about?” or else he would tell her to grow up”…”His [Stephens] saying that humiliate her [Maureen], and her eyes would fill with tears.”

In the eyes of society Lawyer Stephens was a well-respected, honorable, intelligent man “He [Lawyer Stephens] knows the law, they said .He doesn’t have to look it up. He got it all in his head.” “Everyone believed he could have been a judge if he had played his cards right. He could have been a senator. But he was too honorable. He wouldn’t kowtow. He was a man in a million.” Even though Mr. Stephens is well respected human being, we believe that he’s nothing but a coward, who hits woman to prove his manliness and strength because he’s incapable of making his wife pregnant and incapable of being independent. This physical and verbal abuse, the pervasive male intelligence and thoughts of Lawyer Stephens leads him to oppress and downgrade Maureen.

The relationship between Marian and Heather shows how women are easily oppressed by men countless times. Women are seen as victims and easy targets in the eyes of men. Such events of women being oppressed by men are shown several amounts of times in the story Open Secrets with the characters, Marian and Heather. Heather might’ve been sexually oppressed by men when she left the other girls to get a sweater. Now, it doesn’t say she was meeting up with someone but by putting the two stories together; Marian’s and Heather’s, she could’ve possibly been. Why else would Marian go to lawyer Stephens with Slater?

Slater doesn’t have an alibi which then makes Marian do all the talking, defending him, trying to save his ass. There’s no explanation for why she’d be covering for him unless he wasn’t guilty. Marian in this case was oppressed by him, she had no choice but to help him out. Although she is defending Slater in such horrific acts of abuse she has somewhat control over him. He may be able to oppress her into things but she is capable of keeping him quiet. Slater is quite childish and immature to the point where Marian will baby him; hold his hand in wrong doings. These are only a few ways of male sexuality on female oppression.

In Munro’s tale, the characters of Theo Slater and Mr. Siddicup both help to support the case of male sexuality and perversion. One point supporting the idea of perversion is through Slater’s perverted and childlike behavior. When Slater had “[answered] for his wife in regard to sugar for her coffee, he almost giggled when she said lumps,” (119). Just this small act of childlike behavior shows that this grown man, with his own perverted mind, can giggle at the simplest things as if saying “lumps” could refer to anything other than the matter at hand; which was referring to sugar. As if it insinuated anything else; any other kind of “lumps”.

Also, when Marian removed her hat when it was hurting her, Slater snatched it and “settled it in his lap. He bent over and started to stroke it, in a comforting way. He stroked that hat made of horrible brown feathers as if he were pacifying a little scared hen,” (128). This insinuates – with the use of the word stroking, with something that is placed in his lap – that he’s stroking his penis. Through the use of the word “hen” at the end of the phrase – hen linked to chicken; chicken linked to rooster – it can allude to a “cock”; a penis. Another point supporting the idea of perversion is Mr. Siddicup’s change from being a “dignified” and “decent old man” to being “a morose and rather disgusting old urchin,” (122).

Siddicup went from being a man that went to the library and had a lovely garden with his “pleasant wife”, to a man that knocked things over in grocery stores, had a dreadfully smelling and messy home, and who threw the remainder of casseroles and pies – given from women from his wife’s church group – out his window; breaking the dishes. The shocking change from who Siddicup used to be and is makes you ponder if a man needs a woman to be decent.

With this shocking change, the idea of his perversion – also another reason the women stopped visiting; besides his ungratefulness – is due to “[his wife’s] clothes, underwear – old frayed slips and brassières and worn-out underpants and nubbly stockings, hanging from the backs of chairs or from a line above the heater, or just in a heap on the table,” (127). The women wondered if it was a suggestion; if he indeed was a pervert.

In conclusion, we could therefore restate our original point developing on the idea that female oppression is due to male sexuality and perverseness in Munro’s complex tale. A last interesting point being the fact regarding to the strange allusion to the male and female names, which either started with “S” or “M” respectively, giving a direct connotation with regards to the sadist masochistic practices that the story takes note of. All in all, our thesis was supported and there are many more interesting points that could’ve been entrusted to developing on the same precise point.

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