To Kill a Mockingbird: Critical Analysis Essay
Femininity In the 1930’s vs Today
When you think of a ‘feminine’ woman, what comes to mind? In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel, Scout struggles with being who she wants to be because of the influence of those around her in regards to femininity. Her brother pushes her to be less feminine and discourages anything he considers to be ‘girly’, and the women of Maycomb, especially her Aunt Alexandra, push her to be more feminine so that she will fit in. This leaves Scout not knowing how to act, because either way she will be upsetting someone. Girls and women are not held to the same expectation of femininity or being ‘feminine’ as they were in the 1930’s.
In the 1930’s, when To Kill a Mockingbird was set, women were expected to be extremely feminine. According to Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of femininity is: Having qualities traditionally considered to be suitable for a woman. In the 1930’s, this meant wearing dresses, acting ‘proper’, and having good manners. Scout challenges these roles by wearing jeans, and instead of playing with dolls, she plays with her brother outside.In the novel, Mrs. Dubose says to Scout, “What are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole young lady! You’ll grow up waiting on tables if someone doesn’t change your ways...”(Lee, 130). This quote shows the view of the women of Maycomb if Scout wasn’t ‘feminine’. They seem to believe that the worst thing that could happen to Scout was if she was to get a job.
The views of femininity now are drastically different than they were in the 1930’s. Firstly, the way women dress on an everyday basis has completely changed. Women then wore dresses everyday, and felt that they always needed to look their best. Now, it is much more common for women to wear pants as casual attire, and dresses are saved for more special occasions. Also, the 1930 census showed that only 24.3 percent of women worked, but now that number has more than doubled, with 57 percent of all women having a job in the labor force. This shows how different the opinions of femininity were, because in the 1930’s, women thought that having a job was very masculine, and that only women who didn’t wear dresses or act ‘feminine’ would have to get a job. Now, about half of Americans working are women, and that number continues to grow.
In conclusion, society’s definition of what it means to be feminine has changed since To Kill a Mockingbird was set. Women can dress more casually, and having a job is no longer something that is discouraged. They have more freedom to act or dress how they want, without being persuaded to change, like Scout was. I hope in the future, women can continue to be able to act as ‘feminine’ as they want to.