The Kugelmass Episode

by Woody Allen

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Attitudes towards women in "The Kugelmass Episode"

Summary:

In "The Kugelmass Episode," the attitudes towards women are often superficial and objectifying. The protagonist, Kugelmass, views women primarily as objects of desire and escape rather than as individuals with their own worth and complexities. The story satirizes these shallow perspectives and highlights the folly and consequences of such attitudes.

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What attitudes towards women are reflected in The Kugelmass Episode?

The attitude towards women in "The Kugelmass Episode" is that one has to go through a great deal of trouble to keep them happy. Allen seems to be making the point that, a woman (attractive or otherwise) can harbor unrealistic expectations about a relationship. Sure, this attitude towards women is hardly complimentary. Perhaps, one can even argue that it is a cynical view. However (as the other educator pointed out), it is also apparent that Allen is making the same point about men. 

In the story, Kugelmass thinks that having an affair would brighten up his dreary existence. He is determined to find the perfect woman to have a liaison with, ideally one with few emotional demands and even fewer illusions about masculine devotion. In other words, Kugelmass wants to experience sexual gratification without the need to expend his material or emotional resources on his lover.

Kugelmass feels extremely unhappy with his wife, Daphne. He claims that she has gained a lot of weight and seems to derive pleasure from making his life miserable. Above all, she expects him to humor her relatives. So, when the Great Persky (a magician) offers him a "romance novel" fantasy experience, Kugelmass accepts. Our protagonist decides that he will have an affair with Madame Bovary from the Flaubert novel. The Great Persky obliges him, and Kugelmass is ecstatic. He thinks that Madame Bovary is everything Daphne is not: she is beautiful, sexy, soft, and inviting.

However, as time passes, Kugelmass discovers that Madame Bovary isn't any different from Daphne. In fact, Madame Bovary is every bit as demanding, if not more. Daphne may expect Kugelmass to attend the occasional Bloomingdale's sale, but Madame Bovary expects Kugelmass to invest in her Broadway debut. In the end, Kugelmass decides to send Madame Bovary back to her nineteenth-century life. 

So, the attitude towards women in the story is that they are demanding creatures who expect their every desire to be fulfilled.

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What attitudes towards women are reflected in The Kugelmass Episode?

On face value, I would say that there is a fairly strong tact taken against women.  Daphne and Emma are both shown to be women who are self- centered and incapable of being able to engage in any critical thought that leads to examination and change in their consciousness.  Yet, I think that Kugelmass represents the same condition.  It seems that the same critique of women that is offered in the work is also offered to men, as well.  The attitudes towards women that are shown are shown towards men.  Allen might not be making a statement about women, but all people.  For Allen, the same condition that impacts Kugelmass, Emma, and Daphne is one that impacts all people.  The construction of small and trivial issues helps individuals to escape the critical questions that define one's sense of being.  Emma does not ask questions as to why she is the way she is, but neither does Kugelmass.  In fact, the only man that might be reflective would be "The Great Persky," who ends up dying.  In this, there is a statement about what it means to be human, a condition in which the lack of reflection is not merely an attitude that women display, but one that men display, also.

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What attitudes towards women are reflected in The Kugelmass Episode?

In “The Kugelmass Episode,” Woody Allen does not portray women in a very positive light. The main character, Kugelmass, speaks very disrespectfully of his wife. Within the story he says she has “let herself go and swell up like a beach ball” and calls her a troglodyte (a prehistoric cave dweller). He also speaks of staying married only to avoid a large divorce settlement and states that he stays with her because she “has a few bucks.” He never considers her feelings when contemplating his affair and only worries about getting caught because of the trouble it will bring him. Once he meets Emma Bovary, he is intrigued and respectful, but as soon as she becomes real and is removed from the fantasy world of her book, he reverts back to his boorish response to women. All of the female characters within this story are written as one-dimensional. Their only purpose within the story is to serve Kugelmass’s needs.

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Examine the significance of the attitudes toward women are reflected in The Kugelmass Episode?

I think that one aspect of the significance in which women are displayed in Allen's work is that it raises questions about the socially defined roles that women must play.  Allen constructs Emma Bovary as a woman who is defined by her culture through her literature.  One of the reasons she is so immediately attracted to Kugelmass is that it enables her to escape the condition of French society.  She escapes it only to find that there is a similar condition in modern American society.  In both settings, women are "expected" to play particular roles and those gender- stratified roles help to limit the full characterization of women.  Daphne Kugelmass represents this.  At one point, she was full of what Kuglemass would have seen as "potential."  Yet, now she represents what women are supposed to be seen as in modern society.  She is perceived as trivial, someone incapable of something substantial.  I think that Allen's primary motivation is to show both the hollowness of conceiving in reality in one dimension.  This same emptiness is evident in the way in which such a social expectation can limit how people are perceived by both others and themselves.  In this, the attitudes towards women are significant in that they show how social limitations impact the way in which individuals view themselves and one another.

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What attitudes toward women are reflected in "The Kugelmass Episode"?

In Woody Allen's short story "The Kugelmass Episode," the main character, Sidney Kugelmass, regards women as bores if he has to deal with them for any length of time. When the story begins, he is unhappy with his marriage to Daphne, who he describes as "an oaf." He tells his analyst that he married her for money, and he, though bald and hairy, longs to have an affair. He says he can't divorce Daphne because she'll sue him for alimony, which he's already paying to his first wife. Kugelmass's analyst tells him that an affair will solve nothing, but Kugelmass is intrigued when Persky, a magician, calls him and offers him a chance to meet any woman in literature.

Kugelmass embarks on what appears to be a dreamy and steamy affair with Emma Bovary from Flaubert's novel. They have a relationship that is everything Kugelmass wants until Emma, transported to modern times, is stuck and can't return to her novel. Then, Emma and Kugelmass quickly tire of each other, and Kugelmass complains bitterly about the bill he has to pay to keep her at the Plaza. Kugelmass is relieved when Persky figures out a way to send Emma back to her novel. Women in the story are only momentary delights for Kugelmass to conquer, and he has little interest in them beyond that. He is interested in women in literature because they are ideal figures and are not real, but real women disgust and irritate him. 

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