Texts across time have portrayed women in terms of a dichotomy between "good" and "bad", but to what extent are the composers of the texts you have studied ambivalent towards their female characters?

Essay by stella8h8changHigh School, 11th grade August 2005

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Composers throughout the ages have often used dichotomy as a tool to depict the rift between "good" and "bad" women, but their exact intentions are often unclear. Examples of this ambiguity may be found in "Vanity Fair", a BBC television mini-series set in nineteenth century England, Fay Weldon's eighties novel, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, and Chocolat, a single mother's integration into a rural French community, by Joanne Harris. No true saints or villains exist in the three texts; their female characters are neither wholly good nor evil, but an ambiguous mixture of both, which is open to interpretation. This is done through the partial shift of the blame for wickedness, or a cause of righteousness, to the social surroundings and the past of an individual. The reasoning behind women's deeds, which they commit in the name of "goodness", or indeed, "badness" exposed by the composer, also blur the composer's stance on the dichotomy.

The power of institutions to affect and sometimes distort perception are also used by composers to reflect the many different and conflicting ways in which people may be perceived.

Frequently other people surrounding a person, and the individual's history, have an influence on their development, and in some cases are given responsibility for aspects of their character. For example, while Becky Sharp in "Vanity Fair" behaves in a seemingly inappropriate way for a "good" woman by attempting to seduce Jos Sedley, her best friend Amelia's brother, causing friction with the potential parents-in-law, Amelia immediately supports Becky, saying "Miss Sharp has no kind parents to arrange these delicate matters for her", offering as an excuse for her behaviour the fact that she has no people around her for support, and must take on a multitude of roles, including the matchmaking role of her mother and...