A Level English Language Coursework – The Good Wife Guide

Over the years, a lot has changed, including the utilisation of language. With the uprising of technology in the 21st Century, language has adapted to the social norms of society and events that have happened from 50 years ago to today have an effect on the way language is used.

In 1955, an article was published in an issue of Housekeeping Weekly, a popular magazine read by women of the time. The article, ‘The Good Wife Guide’ was intended to provide help and advice for women on how to properly look after their husbands.

The onset of the article begins with an imperative “Have dinner ready.” These imperatives are utilised throughout the entire article to inform the women of the correct way they should act and behave: “prepare yourself” “be happy to see him”. These commands induce an authoritative tone throughout the text and ensure that the reader has a clear understanding that this isn’t advice; these are rules that should be strictly followed if you want to ensure your husband is entirely satisfied while at home. This is further conveyed through the use of direct address to the wife using second person pronouns. The use of imperatives also illustrates the dominance of the male race, as this was written in the 1950s and second-wave feminism only arose in the 60s. This is a clear example of how times were for women in this era and demonstrates the representation of women as housewives.  This is further exemplified through the utilisation of the adverb “promptly”, implying that your husband’s needs are much more important than your own, and you are only there to serve him and ensure he’s keeping well before worrying about yourself. Other adverbials of manner include “on time”, “ahead” and “let him talk first”, creating a social normality that men were superior and a woman’s role is to take care of him.

The intelligence of the female readers of this article was often belittled, as the author chooses to mainly write in simple and compound sentences. “Minimize all noise” and “Don’t complain if he’s home late for dinner, or even stays out all night.” These implications of stupidity were not uncommon, suggesting that it was the norm for men to treat women like they weren’t as intelligent as themselves. This is further indicated through the repetition of the negative conjunction “don’t”, providing the reader with an easier alternative to the standard English language by shortening ‘do not’ to “don’t”.

The importance of the husband’s pleasure and comfort is the main component to this article which can be noticed at any point throughout the text. The utilisation of positive pre-modifying adjectives such as “pleasant voice” and “favourite dish” support this as they are indicative of the priority of the husband’s wants and needs. It was the role for the women of the household to ensure that everything is perfect for the husband’s requirements. The repetition of the generalised plural “most men” implies that this was the standard way that all women were expected to behave and that it was the social norm.

The Good Wife Guide has a prevailing attitude of a sense of reward when the actions are carried out properly. “Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order and it will give you a lift too” and “catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.” This implies that it’s not only the social norm, but it’s the right thing to do and wives will feel pleasure from their actions of serving someone else.

Common female stereotypes are indicated in the Good Wife Guide as the women are undervalued through a derogatory tone which can be easily established throughout the text. This is illustrated through the utilisation of the pre-modifying adjective ‘little’ and the post-modifying adjective ‘trivial’ when describing a woman’s hobbies and interests ‘when compared to men’s’, further suggesting that the women were just housewives and are only there to clean and cook and make men comfortable, rather than have their own lives and work for their own personal benefit.

The use of unidentified third person singular pronouns such as ‘he’ ‘him’ and ‘his’ are ambiguous of a God-like persona, implying that the husband is as important as a God and brings a biblical and religious element to the text. This demonstrates that the text was meant to be serious and not taken lightly or as a joke, and these are specific ways you should act around your husband. Furthermore, another way that the biblical undertones are conveyed in this text is through the use of the noun phrases “your husband” and “the master of the house” which are very impersonal and suggest that the women are working for a greater being than themselves.

The time era that this article was written in is easy to distinguish with the aid of the archaic use of “gay” to describe happiness and being buoyant in spirit. Other ways in which the 1950s style of writing is illustrated is through dated verbs such as “awakes” and “retire to the bedroom”.

A slightly chauvinistic attitude is conveyed along with that of misogyny. The way that the women are almost referred to as slaves for the men and house maids is perhaps a disguised misogynistic attitude of the author. The chauvinism against feminism is clear through the phrase “try not to bore him speaking of these [little hobbies] ”, suggesting that the men of the time should not have to endure what a woman has to say.

In 2010, Primer, a popular online magazine tailored especially for the entertainment of males caught wind of the Good Wife Guide article and decided to create their own: ‘The Good Man’s Guide’. Language intended for different genders differs dramatically depending on the author, the intended audience and the time era. In this particular case, a male is writing for a male audience, which is indicative of taboo language and crude attitudes and expressions. However, the entirety of the article mainly focuses on equality of gender in a relationship and ways men can help make her life easier, instead of the opposite ideologies proposed by The Good Wife Guide.

The immediate utilisation of third person singular determiners such as “her” “hers” and “she” connote that the article is centred on the female and her desires, instead of just the males. Through the imperative phrase “keep in mind that she’s had a rough day too” the article suggests that women work just as hard as men and the two genders are equally as important as each other.

This is further exemplified through the post modifying adjective “equal” when discussing who makes dinner for the family. The role reversal of household acts between men and women suggest a complete disregard of misogynistic attitudes and include feminism as a valid ideology.

Positive dynamic verbs such as “help” “try” and “listen” imply that it is a joint effort of both the male and the female to make the home environment friendly, relaxing and comfortable for the both of them.

Negative conjunctives such as “don’t” are also repetitively used in the Good Man’s Guide, similar to that of the Good Wife’s Guide, and for a similar reason. By shortening down an instruction, it makes the command much simpler to follow and the ones completing the demand are more likely to easily respond.

After the period of second wave feminism in the 1960s, the stereotypical ideologies of a female’s responsibilities began to change and women weren’t categorised as housewives so harshly anymore.

‘When fighting for equality and justice and participatory democracy ‘in general’, women become tired of just making tea for the revolution, sleeping with the leaders, and typing their manuscripts’ D. Dahlerup (1986) The New Women’s Movement.[1]

Nearing toward the end of the article, a religious element similar to one hinted in the Good Wife Guide is illustrated through the compound sentence “Do unto her, as you would have her do unto you”. This obvious biblical reference implies that a relationship is as big of a commitment as being part of a religion and requires dual intentions and attempts to make it work.

The final statement takes on a mocking tone as it adapts the original article to a man’s point of view: “ A good man always knows his place.” This suggests that the aim of the article was to provide entertainment for its readers but also to set a new standard of how relationships should have equal amounts of effort from each gender.

Bibliography

[1] http://fightforliberation.weebly.com/

http://www.primermagazine.com/2009/love/the-good-wifes-guide

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