The traditional ideal woman was a pendent being whose behavior was governed by the “three obedience’s and four virtues”. The three obedience’s were obedience to father before marriage, the husband after marriage, and the son in case of widows. The four virtues were propriety in behavior, speech, demeanor and employment. The laws of the land and fear of shame in society dictated that men were allowed to rule over their household leaving women in a powerless state as almost a slave of the home.
In Pup’s stories women are portrayed as complex characters who hold important roles in the family, but are treated with little o no respect by authority figures, and other men of higher class. In The Death Of Woman Wang, Spence portrays Cairo 2 marriage as a lifelong bond of loyalty between a couple, and then continues on to shows the darker side with the death of husbands and the death of woman Wang after she ran away. Spence portrayal of marriage and family in this novel in my opinion is seen as strong.
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I would characterize this portrait of marriage and family as being loyal. In the stories that Spence shares with us, with an exception to The Woman Who Ran Away, that the woman who are married are indeed very loyal to their husbands. In the city of Than-chosen, marrying someone meant that you would be loyal to them and that the couple would be together until death. It was the woman’s virtue that defined whether she was to be honored or condemned.
You can see this by what Spence says, “The virtues fostered were those of chastity, courage, tenacity, and unquestioning acceptance of the privileging hierarchy- unto death if necessary: fifteen of the listed women had committed suicide, and in thirteen of the suicides the motive was loyalty to a deceased husband or to avoid rape, which would home both wife and husband” (Spence 100). The women being described by this passage really show their sense of loyalty to their husband. They did not want to be publicly shamed if they did do something with another man.
So in order to keep their own honor and the honor of their dead husband they would either disfigure themselves so they did not seem suitable for another man, or to the extreme, kill themselves. Which was thought of as being the honorable thing to do because it showed their loyalty. Another account told by Spence about how women are very loyal and stay strong to their deceased Cubans is in the story of The Widow where her husband died from a violent illness. “Woman An beat her breast and cried out again and again ‘Oh, husband, you have passed away and I shall follow you. Shortly after she threw herself into a fire, but rescued… One day she tricked her mother in law into leaving the room she was locked in, barred the door, and hanged Cairo 3 herself (Spence 70-71). This young girl of 18 years old, loved her husband very much and when he died it hit her hard. She did what was the honorable and loyal thing to do, which was killing herself. Since she was only 18 there was a good chance that someone else might have come along and tried to marry her but she did what Was best for her family because a woman’s proper role, then, was that of bringing honor to her husband.
The next topic that Spence talks about is the different types of relationships between men and women in China. One of the woman Spence’s speaks of is the widowed woman who was about to be raped by the Munch troops. She is able to trick them into coming into her house after she dug a hole in the ground form them to fall into and die. An example of a great relationship in the story is the marriage of His-LU and Aka. His-LU says to her husband Aka, “Would you be willing to give up attending to our family s business affairs and let me look after them? Aka let her take over; for six months everything went well with the family’s affairs, and Aka praised her” (Spence 63). His-LU did such a good job with what Aka asked of her to do that he praised her very much. He let his wife take care of the family’s expenses and pay the bills. During this time woman running the household and paying bills is unheard of. No man would let a woman do the job that he was supposed to be doing, but Aka saw how smart his wife was and let her do her thing. It turned out for the best.
Along from this relationship, other women in relationships, along with widows, are treated very poorly. Men were considered higher up and better than women so men and women were not equals. Spence has been able to show throw the novel The Death of Woman Wang the positive and negative sides to these relationships that took place in seventeenth century China. Cairo 4 The lives of women and experiences they faced were due to the stereotypes hat are given to women during the time of the seventeenth century.
Women are meant to be married, have children, and to attend to the needs of her husband as well as the needs of the household, not do the work of their husbands like His-LU did. Spence allows women in his China to take the roll of what a man does. Women that lived in Than-chosen did not have great experiences because some of the women had their houses raided and burned down, raped, shamed the family name by re-marrying or widowing, as well as doing a man’s job. The experiences that women had were based costly on the families they came from and their financial and marital status.
Women who were widowed encountered what they said to be fox spirits so that gave them hope in their lives. In an encounter with an old woman the fox spirit says, ‘You don’t have to worry. Im good at making my own living in this way… When the old lady saw how friendly and helpful she was, and how sweet, she felt at ease” (Spence 60). This gives the widow hope because someone is helping her in her life. Not just trying to make it worse by trying to get the widowed woman a new husband.
Lastly, Jonathan Spence uses fiction to enrich our understanding of women, family and the law in late seventeenth-century China. Spence’s creation of multiple stories help us understand better the lives that these Woman were having during this time period. It shows us that these women could prevail even through the shaming that might happen within her family. Spence uses Pup’s stories to illustrate the time of men and women during the King dynasty and how living in early -ran-chosen many terrible things that happened to themselves and their land.
In Tan-chosen there is a lot of terrible things happening like said at the beginning of the novel, “In 1670, the people’s problem was one of the basic survival – physical and moral- in a world Cairo 5 that seemed to be disintegrated before their eyes” (Spence 9). People could not afford to live where they did, because of the devastation that took place. Living in early Than-chosen was a struggle for the rich and the poor the land law made locals give crops that they barely even had enough too, to the magistrates.
This puts into perspective of how lucky we are now and how we o not have to deal with dreadful things like this. All in all the role that women have in seventeenth century China in my opinion played a very important role, but during the time they did not care about the women at all. The married women at the time had a strong relationship with their husband. The couples stayed together until death, and sometimes if the husband died the widow would stay loyal and not get another husband.