The problem of gender roles and gender relations has always been very important and many writers raised this problem in their works. In this respect, it is possible to refer to W. Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”¯ and O.E. Butler’s “Kindred”¯. In actuality, both writers reveal the fact that women are often in the inferior position compared to men and this problem persists throughout centuries. Moreover, the analysis of both books shows that this problem affects representatives of different ethnic groups that means that the discrimination of women and their secondary position in the society are problems that affect the entire society but not some groups or categories of the population. In such a situation, it is very important to lay emphasis on the fact that the inferior position of women in the society can be consistently aggravated by such issues as racial prejudices and discrimination. Hence, Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”¯ and Butler’s “Kindred”¯ are similar in regard to the description of the inferior position of women and the lack of protection of their human rights and liberties, but Butler enlarges the theme of female inferiority by the problem of racial discrimination and, in suchĀ a way, her books is different from Faulkner’s work.
On analyzing both books, it should be said that the authors are apparently extremely concerned with the position of women in the American society. In fact, both Faulkner and Butler agree that women are unjustly oppressed and practically deprived of their rights. For instance, the main female characters of both books are vulnerable to unjust and superior attitude from the part of male characters. In this respect, it should be said that the main character of Butler’s “Kindred”¯, Dana, travels throughout different epochs but in every epoch she faces one and the same problem she is always discriminated and she is viewed a second class citizen. For instance, as she gets into the 19th century America, she turns out to be a house slave for Rufus. In such a way, she performs a role of a commodity since Rufus is the master of the main character who is able to take decisions concerning her life.
At the same time, even when Dana returns to the present epoch she still preserves some elements of the life as a house slave, because her husband is apparently the dominant role. He is a kind of breadwinner, while Dana mainly performs functions of a housewife. In addition, it is important to reveal the fact that Rufus, whom Dana used to be a house slave, turned out to be her great-great-grandfather, fathering a daughter through one of his slaves. At this point, it should be said that it was actually Rufus who took a decision as for the future of the child, while the mother was just a being which carried the child and gave the life to the master’s daughter. In such a way, the author fully reveals the lack of any rights of women at the epoch since they could not even take decisions concerning their own children.
Remarkably, Faulkner describes the similar situation, though it is not aggravated by the problem of slave-master relationships. In his book “As I Lay Dying”¯ the author shows that one of the main characters Dewey Dell Bundren is pregnant, but neither the father of a child nor the family of Dewey do want the birth of this child. For instance, Lafe, the father of the child, gives Dewey money to make an abortion. In such a way, he simply attempts to escape his responsibility for the future of the child. At the same time, the father of Dewey also insists on the abortion, while the position of Dewey is not taken into consideration at all. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that Dewey cannot actually take decision as for the future of her child on her own because she is totally dependent on the support of men. What is meant here is the fact that even her father as well as the father of her child, are not her masters as Rufus is in relation to Dana in Butler’s book, but they still have the power of Dewey because without their financial support she can neither make the abortion nor raise up her child. In such a way, it is men who actually take the decision in relation to her yet unborn child, but not Dewey herself.
In this respect, the experience of Dewey’s mother, Addie Bundren is also quite symbolic since she had one child born in the result of her extramarital affair, Jewel, whom Addie loves more than any other child in the family. In fact, this may be a kind of revenge or response of Addie to her inferior position within the family. The birth of Jewel is actually the decision which did not depend on Anse Bundren, her husband, but it is the result of her extramarital affair and she is willing to have this child and loves him more than others because it is probably the only child she truly wanted to have. At any rate, it was obviously her choice to have this child that makes Jewel particularly valuable for Addie.
At the same time, the author shows that such an independent decision taken by the woman is illegal and contradicts to the legal and moral norms and principles of the American society which condemns extramarital affairs.
In such a way, both books shows that often women did not even have a right to take decision concerning their own children. However, Butler’s book also reveals the pressure of racial discrimination on women. The main character, Dana is black. This is why she performs the role of a slave in the house of Rufus. Moreover, when she returns into the present epoch she mysteriously loses her left hand which is a symbol of her racial inferiority as black Americans used to be considered as three-quarters of a personality.Ā Hence, her gender inferiority is enhanced by the problem of racial discrimination, which becomes particularly obvious when Dana gets into the past with her white husband, who is treated in the absolutely different way, being superior to his black wife.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”¯ and Butler’s “Kindred”¯ reveal the problem of the secondary position of women in the American society. Both authors show that women are often deprived of basic human rights and this problem persists through centuries. However, Butler reveals another aspect of this problem, the problem of racial discrimination which enhances inferiority of non-white women in the American society.