Victimization of Women in Alice Munro’s Princess Ida
Even though women currently have made enhanced social, economic, and political progress, society has struggled with the issue of gender victimization for centuries. Authors, activists, and artists are some of the many people who have attempted to highlight or mirror the repression of women in society, and Alice Munro falls under this category of people. Munro uses her personal life and that of her mother to relive and retell the story through the characters of Princess Ida, or commonly referred to as Addie and her daughter Del. Her main purpose in writing this text was to get “every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark, or walls; every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion held still, and held together – radiant, everlasting,” Her bid was to make the story as real and as personal as possible, a description of which follows in order to highlight the victimization of women and its influence on the characters of the story.
The scene is set in rural Canada during and after World War II. The country then almost fully depended on farming for survival, and most of its citizens were humble farmers. Del was a teenager at this time, and her mother, even though a farmer and housewife, appeared optimistic about the role of women in the future society, believing that women’s lives were changing and that in future they would have more choices and greater freedom. Addie longed to be a different person and a part of Jubilee’s town scene instead of being a mere country wife. She was dissatisfied with her life and yearned for adventure. Addie eventually moved to the city leaving her husband behind and who visited her during weekends.Her daughter Del also got to grow up to be like her mother, longing for something more to life than becoming a housewife.Victimization is defined as the unwarranted or unfair treatment of a person or specific group of people through exploitation, extortion, torture, discrimination, or profiling. The book explores the theme of victimization of women who are viewed as the lesser gender in society. For starters, the author insinuates that success among women is a far-fetched idea because there are few records or little mention of successful females. The main character, Addie, struggles to achieve the success she desires and has to settle for what she could get and hopes for more for her daughter. The women also bear the responsibility of carrying the family’s burdens. The book portrays an unwritten law that women are required to give up on their dreams, passions, adventures, and interests to keep the family together. This notion makes Addie stand out because she opted to leave her life behind to pursue her traveling interests. The novel also brings out the idea that a woman’s identity can only be found in marriage. Most of the women are recognized or mentioned as wives and mothers, and hardly as individuals. The same kind of depiction is that of women who participated in the war but who came back to play the role of housewives.
The book also highlights women ironically as being the key drivers of their victimization. When Addie chose to relocate to the city, Del’s aunts sharply criticized her move. They had grown up in a society where the woman’s role was undermined to that of being a homemaker only and they were surprised that Addie wanted to take a different route. According to the two aunts, a woman who left home or sought to pursue other interests had failed as a wife.
While women perpetrated their own victimization, we can almost certainly not blame them because they grew up knowing that their interests were not to be heard about or entertained. Munro states that Addie’s childhood is equivalent to a house “like the one where murders were committed”. This expression is a metaphor that directly meant women’s dreams, interests and pursuits could not be entertained, and they were crushed as soon as they indicated signs of budding. Females eventually learned to live with the oppression as they saw it pointless to pursue anything other than being a wife, as was the case in Addie’s childhood.
She lived a horrid life of being physically abused by her parents, possibly raped by her brother, while her chance at getting educated only came after she chose to run away from home. As if not enough, she had to work at her boarding home as a young girl in order to get the education she desired. The book shows her disappointment at being unable to attend college when her mother refused to pay for the higher learning. As the book progresses, Addie’s hope then lies in providing her daughter with the life she never had by getting her educated. She raises her daughter as if to live vicariously through her. Women were denied the chance of getting an education because it was viewed as a waste of time and resources. People who would inevitably amount to being homemakers did not require any basic or advanced education and training, other than that of emulating their mothers in maintaining their households.
Her desire to live was also fuelled by the need to belong to a different community with a different mindset. According to Addie, the people existing in a specific locality are a representative of that area’s values. She longed to belong to people who valued women, change, and had a different ambition in life other than living in the countryside. The people she was surrounded with were comfortable with an “average” life, and in believing that women had no serious say in any social or economic societal welfare hence neglecting their education and their interests. She was uncomfortable in living in a society which found it normal to victimize the woman. Her previous abuse that went unnoticed or unattended to also drove her to want a different life for herself and her daughter. In fact, she was bitter that her parents had a stronger bond with her brother thus leaving her feeling neglected and unwanted. Secondly, according to Del, her mother was raised in a conservative environment that hid behind religion, a strict moral background, and a restricted form of expression. Therefore, it was only natural for her to want to live and raise her child in a different environment.
Del also plays a major character in the book by highlighting the plight of victimization. However, unlike her mother, she grows up in a non-oppressive environment and has access to education. She experiences a conflict in her thoughts when she assesses her aunts’ criticism over her mother’s passion for living a different life. The novel states that Del experiences emotions of “something embarrassing and absurd about her” in reference to her mother, but she still wanted to shield her from the aunts’ criticism. While growing up in the same country environment, her mother exposes her to the idea that she can live her life as she wishes when she moves. Del finds herself fantasizing or wishing to have the same freedom that her mother had in the future.
Addie’s experience, doubts, and determination to take a different course is a representative of the inner and outer struggles that women have faced over the years. Her struggle, including rebuke and hostility from family and society, is only a micro indication of how women have struggled over the centuries to be identified as equally significant members of society other than being mere housewives. She declined to settle for an average life and appeared as if she was going in the opposite direction to everyone else. This is also an indication that those who want to overcome victimization need to be prepared to be ridiculed, criticized, and even to sacrifice or prioritize one happiness over another. For example, Addie’s desire to live a different life led her to move away from her husband who had to resort to visiting her in the city over the weekends only. The author insists that Addie was not directly abandoning her husband, but their relationship was not enough to calm her desire to gain a new experience. She often reminisces about her old farm life but never enough to make her want to go back. While this form of struggle among women is not as prevalent as it used to be, the majority of the women who pursue their ambitions sometimes end up battling between being more dedicated to their cause than that of the family, an indication that the burden of the family to work is still entirely on the female’s shoulder.
While many women appear to be resigned to their fate as dictated by society, they are the ones who end up missing out the most due to the culture of victimization. They not only fail to realize their dreams but are not allowed to dream in the first place. Addie was only a representation of several women, who as normal humans have other desires apart from being housewives. She was lucky and bold enough to make an attempt at following her desire in spite of receiving ridicule and criticism. Even though she did not fully realize this freedom, she was able to get it for her daughter who at least had the flexibility of choosing what to do with her life, unlike the case in Addie’s upbringing. This example is a good lesson for how parents can influence the lives of their children at an early age. Del was brought up without stifling her ability to dream and be curious about what life had to offer.
The story can also be a learning point for women living in any community in today’s society. While some may place the blame on men or society at large for condoning victimization, women also play a major role in this outcome. Instead of feeling shortchanged and rising up to demand better for themselves, they got comfortable and disregarded their poor treatment. Addie’s mother did not stand up for her daughter when she was abused, and neither did Del’s aunts show any support. They chose to ridicule Addie instead of supporting her in the bid to create a better life. If only there were more people who were as bold and as courageous as Addie was, then women would have won against victimization. Were it not for Addie, Del would not have had the ability to recount this story as we read it.