26 October 2018
Empowerment of Women Can Lead to Escape from Abusive Marriages
Victims of domestic abuse who feel trapped in a relationship can overcome the situation if they feel empowered to do so. Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles,” Yusef Komunyakaa’s “My Father’s Love Letters,” and Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” feature protagonists who endure spousal abuse and who somehow find the strength to put an end to it. In this way, all three stories convince us to pull for the abused, even if the abused goes against social mores or the law. Whether we consider Hurston’s Delia, who hears her husband’s cries for help but does nothing, or the mother in Komunyakaa’s poem who somehow escaped, or Mrs. (Minnie) Wright in “Trifles,” who has killed her husband after he has killed the one thing she loved and that gave her pleasure, one thing is clear: there comes a time when the abuse is absolutely unbearable and the victims must take control away from the abuser.
“The United States Department of Justice reports that in 2004, 385 women murdered their intimate partners. Angela Browne, in an important study comparing women who killed their partners with a sample of other women who were in abusive relationships, found that there was little about the women that distinguished them from those who had not murdered their partners. What distinguished the two groups was to be found in the behavior of the abuser” CITATION Joh10 l 1033 (Johnson). In fact, abusers are often “versions of the same person” CITATION Ian18 l 1033 (Ousby) and the victims cann come under their spell. One may ask: “Why do these women not fight back sooner?” or ponder why they chose to gain the upper hand at a certain, critical point. Many stay because of their religios beliefs: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord” CITATION Eng l 1033 (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Eph. 5.22).
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Surprisingly, research has shown that “Victims are at higher risk to be killed when they decide to leave their abusers; this is why some women stay”CITATION Joh13 l 1033 (Taylor). In Delia’s case, she once threatened her husband, Sykes, with a skillet, but this is her only offer of resistance the reader sees. Ultimately, she allows Sykes to die from snakebites, offering no resistance to his death or to the snake. Mrs. (Minnie) Wright’s critical point was reached while she sat quilting, and even though she was able to endure years of oppression, she could not bear it when her husband killed her canary by wringing its neck (the same way Mr. Wright was killed). “No, it’s strange. It must have been done awful crafty and still. They say it was such a—funny way to kill a man, rigging it all up like that”.CITATION The17 p 756 l 1033 (Glaspell 756). The audience is given an insight into Mrs. Wright’s state of mind when Mrs. Hale exclaims:
Mrs. Peters, look at this one. Here, this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It’s all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn’t know what she was about! (Glaspell 757).
The mother in “My Father’s Love Letters” has escaped after reaching her critical point, although readers are not informed as to how, when, or because of what occurrence, she did it. All the reader knows is that she has left the relationship and that the father writes letters to her and that:
He would beg, Promising to never beat her Again. Somehow I was happy She had gone, ; sometimes wanted To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou Williams’ “Polka Dots & Moonbeams” Never made the swelling go down. (Komunyakaa 1577).
Gaining power is often the result of “desperate acts” that occur during especially traumatic moments CITATION Joh13 l 1033 (Taylor) such as Delia finding a rattlesnake in her laundry hamper after Sykes brought it into Delia’s home (when he knows she is acutely afraid of snakes). Delia had already informed Sykes that “Ah hates you tuh de same degree dat Ah useter love yuh. Ah done took an’ took till mah belly is full up tuh mah neck” CITATION Hur17 p 955 l 1033 (Hurston 955). “This is violence that is expressive of the frustration generated by abuse borne over a long period of time”CITATION Joh10 l 1033 (Johnson)
“Fifty years before the current women’s movement, Susan Glaspell understood how consciousness raising could empower women to take actions together which they could not take as individuals, how as women share their experiences, they could act out of a new respect for the value of their lives as women, different from, but certainly equal to, the world of men.” CITATION Mar l 1033 (Marsh)Rapper Cardi B credits becoming a stripper with changing her life and saving her from an abusive relationship. “The pay was good, and Cardi B felt empowered. She got her own apartment, went back to school, and left her abusive boyfriend.” CITATION Zim17 l 1033 (Zimmerman) The killing of the canary in “Trifles” and the unknown critical “point of no return” in Komunyakaa’s both cause the victim to take control of the abusive situation. “It is clear that most women who are faced with intimate terrorism do escape from it. For example, Campbell’s research finds that within two and a half years, two-thirds of women facing intimate terrorism are no longer in violent relationships.” CITATION Joh10 l 1033 (Johnson). Whether parted by death, by fate, or by the intervention of others, victims of domestic violence can gain the strength to no longer allow their abusers to control their lives.
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