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Effect of Honor, Essay Example

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Freeman’s A New England Nun is a story wherein the honor of a promise actually has a negative effect. Joe Dagget’s promise to marry Louisa Ellis becomes to both characters something undesired, such that the fulfilling of some code of honor has the exact opposite consequence. Despite this tension being resolved in the story, Freeman can be viewed as giving a proto-feminist critique of traditionally “patriarchal values” such as honor; various imagery in the story could be said to reflect this, above all exemplified in Freeman’s description of the highly ordered and structured lifestyle that takes place in Louisa’s house. Namely, the order reflected in this image of Louisa’s home is the autonomous decision of Louisa: she herself has chosen to organize her life in this manner, for example her meticulous preparation of tea described by Freeman and the exact positioning of the table in the kitchen. Through such imagery, it could be said that Freeman is not critiquing order per se; instead she is critiquing the point that a woman needs a male imposed order to have any order whatsoever. This is fully demonstrated when the imagery of Louisa’s household is shattered by the sudden appearance of Joe, who messes up her kitchen, throwing the place into disorder. The underlying theme at stake in the imagery of Louisa’s well-ordered house is therefore a question of what kind of order is at stake and beneficial: if the way one lives one’s life is the result of an autonomous choice, this itself suggests a type of order, in the sense one that has ordered one’s life in this manner. The image of Louisa’s ordered household thus contrasts with the false order of the patriarchal Joe, who feels he is obliged to fulfill his promise, instead of asking Louisa herself how she feels: It is this pseudo-order of patriarchy that Freeman exposes when she shows the image of ordered Louisa’s household literally made a mess and figuratively transgressed by the disheveled entrance of Joe to fulfill hegemonic male duties.

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