Discuss the Role of Women in Ivy Compton-Burnett’s a House and Its Head and Shakespeare’s the Taming of the Shrew (Through Presentation and What Effect It Has on the Reader)

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In Ivy Compton-Burnett’s novel A House and its Head we are given an unwelcoming glimpse into a household in 1885. As Compton-Burnett was interested in family dynamics she set the book in a year of relative peace, a safe period in history, so the actions of the family could not be excused or blamed on anything in anyway, therefore when the spotlight is focused on the role of women and how they were treated the novel becomes all the more worrying; in comparison, Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew around 1592, during the Elizabethan era, which was a patriarchal one where women were subjected to male authority and were treated like objects. Although there is a near 200 year gap between the creative works, they seem to complement each other in a worrying portrayal of the role of women in society through the years.

If we look into the opening of A House and its Head, the first image we are presented with is a women being brutally ignored by her husband: the opening line of the book is, ‘so the children are not down yet.’ Straight away we are thrown into the depths of a dark atmosphere due to the subjugation associated with the word down, which connotes that there is a hierarchy present; and that she is below it. This point is further reinforced when we see that Duncan ignores her several times, and puts ‘his finger down his collar’ which implies that she is strangling him from simply speaking. Duncan is the head of the house and ultimately the main protagonist as one can see from the title of the book, and this is reflected in the vague description of him where it is revealed that he appears to be ‘tall’ to others and himself. The word appears suggests that even if he is not physically tall, he still seems it to other people due to his authority. To go even further, Ellen rephrases her question in the form ‘so you are down first of all, Duncan,’ which…...

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