Written by Cynthia M. Daigle
women in "big Blonde" and "The darling"
Anton Chekhov’s story, “The Darling,” was written in 1899 just before the
Russian Revolution and this story was a critic to show the sadness of life in
Russia at that time. Chekhov is
known as the “Father of the short story in Russia”. The context in which this story was written was opposite to
the gay 20s and 30s. At that time,
women represented at least 50% of the working class because people lived in
constant poverty. “Big Blonde”
by Dorothy Parker was written in the gay 20s and is divided into four episodes
which help to explain the coming-of-age of the character.
Great changes took place for women; for instance drinking habits because
they drank all the time, parties and the way women dressed in general.
Those changes occurred because of the social pressure on women to be
entertaining with men. For example,
in the story “Big Blonde” the woman is told to be a good sport and she is
paid to smile and to be a good companion.
Olenka and Big Blonde
are both women who represent the non-working class and get love and money from
men. They are economically
dependant on the other gender, but it was acceptable at that time because
patriarchal society favoured men and children in the first place.
In “Big Blonde,” the woman wearing tight shoes is emblematic of the
female character because it means that the woman had to squish herself into
something too small to please men. All
those nice ways of dressing reflected economic power and pressured women to be
attractive. This was a universal situation and most women were confined
to the female role to attract men although some of these women did not feel like
it. For instance, in “Big
Blonde” the narrator says about the protagonist that
“She dreamed by day of never again putting on tight shoes, of never
having to laugh and listen and admire, of never more being a good sport.
Never.” (Chekhov, p.1118)
Olenka doesn’t need
money as much as “Big Blonde” because she inherited her father’s house.
She is a psychologically complex character and she contradicts herself.
When she has no men to love, she is in a haze; her whole personality and
body are emptied out, she has no more desire and no opinion.
When she is responsible of Sacha, the veterinary surgeon’s little boy,
her love grows bigger and very intense. She
becomes obsessed and Sacha starts to reject her because he feels smothered.
Her love can be compared to a prison. Her need for love is not going to
disappear, and here we get a sense of the irony in the name darling!
“Big Blonde” was also living in confusion and her life was like a long dream
where nothing was clear or fun anymore. In
her case, it was more like a nightmare because at one point she is trying to
figure out how she could kill herself.
Parker and Chekhov
wrote against the grain because their stories do not follow the traditional plot
for this kind of short story. Instead
of women who get married and live happily ever after, we have Hazel (Haze
meaning she is in the fog, clouds or lost…) with a marriage that doesn’t
work and a string of lovers; Olenka is being satirised because she has the same
opinions and ideas then her husbands and towards the end, she becomes obsessed
with the veterinary surgeon’s little boy because this is all she has left and
can hope for.
In these stories, both authors were trying to get a message across to women.
I think they were trying to give a warning and to tell women to wake up
and do something about the situation even if the stories were written 30 years
apart. Perhaps they were trying to ridicule women and their
behaviours of dependency towards men in a patriarchal society.
H. Pichering. Fiction 100,
Tenth Edition, New Jersey, University
of Houston, 2004, p. 205-214, p.1109-1125.
WESTON THOMAS, Pauline and THOMAS, Guy. Fashion-era, 1920s Flapper Fashion History. C20th Costume History for Women, [on line], 23 March 2006, http://www.Fashioera.com/flapper_fashion_1920s.htm