Literary devices constitute certain elements of the story, without which literature would make little to no sense. One of the centerpieces of any story are their characters, since they are the driving factors behind certain events as well as the eyes and ears, through which the readers are allowed to experience the story. They serve in their unique functions as parts of the story in literature. The purpose of this paper is to review the driving female characters in the stories titled “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell and “The Boarding House” by James Joyce. Although the primary female characters in both stories are strong women disadvantaged by the male-dominated society, they take different approaches to surviving in it, with Mrs. Hale defying the society in silent protest, while Mrs. Mooney fully integrates and works the system to her advantage.
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Short Summary of the Stories
“A Jury of Her Peers” is a story revolving around the murder of Mr. Wright, who was found dead with a string around his neck. The investigation is led by Mr. Peters and Mr. Henderson, but they are not doing a good job of it, acting dismissive towards the women of the setting – Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, who managed to discover that Mrs. Wright is the killer, and chose to keep their discovery to themselves, as a protest.
“The Boarding House,” on the other hand, tells the readers a story largely from the perspective of Mrs. Mooney, going through her life starting as a butcher’s daughter, marrying the foreman, surviving an unhappy marriage, and later setting up as the owner of a boarding house. The later part of the story describes her shrewdness in day-to-day affairs as well as her plot to ensure the marriage of her daughter Polly to Mr. Doran, a gentleman in his thirties-forties. She wisely uses the circumstances surrounding their romance to ensure that the man has no choice but to propose.
Characters as Literary Devices
Although stories cannot exist without characters, the purposes of each character are different within their particular setting. “A Jury of Her Peers” features around ten characters, which are either interacting with the environment or are mentioned in the passing. The purpose of Mrs. Hale in the story is that of a protagonist, as she and Mrs. Peters are some of the more sympathetic characters in the story, when compared to male characters. She is competent, empathetic, and visibly perplexed by the others’ lack of these qualities. Her purpose in the story is not only to move the plot forward, as she discovered the motive for murder as well as the murderer, but also to convey the main idea behind the story, which is a protest against the silent cruelty of a patriarchal society towards women.
Mrs. Mooney from “The Boarding House” has a different purpose as a literary device. The plot of the story revolves around her life, and how she shapes the world around her by making certain decisions. She is a static character in that her primary characteristics (strong will and the desire to succeed in life) remain constant throughout the entire plotline. Since the author uses the character to convey her feelings and thought processes, like in the episode where Mrs. Mooney thinks about how to corner Mr. Doran into marrying her daughter, the character could be considered a point-of-view kind of literary device. As it is possible to see, the characters in both stories serve their definitive purposes.
Contrasts and Similarities Between Characters
The overarching purpose of both characters was to demonstrate the struggles that women face in a male-dominated society. However, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Mooney faced different sets of challenges and approached the issues differently as well. Mrs. Hale was faced with the stigma of incompetence that often followed women during much of humanity’s history, with them being regarded as “emotional and simpleminded lot,” whose opinions could be disregarded. Mrs. Mooney’s challenge was to make a mark in the world after surviving an unsuccessful marriage, and having to handle affairs on her own, while raising children, and facing the stigma of a single woman in divorce.
Another difference between the characters was in how they advanced the story forward. Both characters were proactive in determining the final outcome for themselves and others, but had different approaches and motivations for doing so. Mrs. Haley chose to resist the rules and the overarching order by committing a crime of omission, choosing not to expose Mrs. Wright and cover up the evidence of her crime. She was motivated by pity, knowing that the murdered Mr. Wright was a bad man, who terrorized his wife and took away everything she held dear, with the song bird being the last straw.
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Mrs. Mooney approached the situation differently – instead of protesting the unfair traditions and limitations the society imposed on her, she chose to become successful by playing by the rules and conducting her matters shrewdly, with full awareness of social implications of thereof. She astutely determines that in a case of a scandal the public opinion would be on her side, and not on Mr. Doran’s, as she learns of her daughter’s affair with him. The woman uses that advantage to force a marriage and ensure her daughter’s future, which was previously compromised by her father’s poor reputation along with her affiliation to the boarding house.
Characters are important literary devices that the story is built around of. They provide a point of view for the readers as well as the channel for the authors to express their own opinions about the subjects they wish to bring up. In the stories presented in this paper, Mrs. Haley and Mrs. Mooney are strong and competent female characters that drive the plot forward with their actions, and showcase the flaws and errors of a male-dominated society. However, their uses as narrative devices in the story were different, as illustrated in their motivations and approaches.
In order to write this paper, I conducted research on the subject by reading about characters as literary devices, identifying various types of characters, and their general roles in storytelling. It was important to do this first, as the information I learned put me in the mindset to analyze the stories from a literary device perspective.
Then, I read the stories related to the assignment. I read both of the two times, in order to make sure I did not miss anything. I created character profiles of the characters involved, and identified their role in the story not just from the in-character perspective, but also from the point of the overarching narrative. This enabled me to formulate the thesis, which I wrote down and revised several times.
Finally, when having gotten to writing the essay, I produced an outline that helped me structure my effort, and followed it in order to complete my work. I checked it for inconsistencies and compared it with the instructions. Lastly, I ran a grammatical check to ensure everything is alright. Through this process, I learned the proper procedure of how to write a comparison/contrast essay, as well as acquainted myself with the stories involved.
Joyce, James. “The Boarding House” The Literature Network. Web.