Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Laura Brown & The Feminine Mystique

In 1963, Betty Friedan published one of the fundamental works of the Second-wave feminist movement, The Feminine Mystique. The Mystique attacked the stereotype of the 'happy American housewife' and concluded that American women were the victims of a society which expected the lives of women to amount to a vicarious existence through her husband and children.

Such is the dilemma which confronts the housewife Laura Brown in director Stephen Daldry's film, The Hours. While reading Virginia Woolf's book, Mrs. Dalloway, Brown realizes that she is unsatisfied with her homely and otherwise picturesque family. Friedan's notion of the feminine mystique becomes apparent when Brown is confronted with the dilemma of a friend and realizes that society expects her to find fulfillment in her life as a homemaker and the bearer of children. But for Brown this is a life of suppression that prevents her from being her own woman and living for herself. She can continue to be a mother for the sake of the continued happiness of her husband and children, or can leave her current life behind and pursue her own happiness and way of life.

After contemplating and rejecting the idea of suicide, Brown solves the dilemma of the feminine mystique by deciding to run away from her family after the birth of her second child. Brown abandons her children and realizes the consequences of her actions, but her dialogue at the end of the movie reveals that she harbors no regrets and believes that she made the right choice by fleeing to Canada. Social norms would contend that she should feel remorse for what she has done, but Brown only regrets that she does not regret living her son Richard behind.

No comments: