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"open Secrets" by Alice Munro

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English Essay – “Open Secrets” by Alice Munro

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.



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