(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Repeatedly in these stories, the women come up against patriarchal oppression in one form or another, from Rhoda’s father’s attempts to mold her into his own expectations of a daughter to Crystal’s husband’s attempts to mold her into his expectations of a wife. In between the stories of these two women is a story of two women who are obsessively dieting in order to mold themselves into the patriarchy’s ideal of women. The women in this collection who step outside their “proper” roles as reflections of the men in their lives or as incarnations of men’s desires—Rhoda, who at the end of “Music,” it is reported, has become a writer; Lady Margaret, who at the time of her story is a book reviewer but who, it is revealed, aspires to be a writer herself; Fanny, who rebels against the family she has married into, a family much like the Weiss family Crystal finds herself up against; and Crystal, who stages a grand showdown with her brother—are ultimately tried and convicted in their stories for their “crimes” against the social order. Their punishment is a lifetime of dissatisfaction with themselves, their families, and their lovers. Rhoda cannot find satisfaction with her writing, because she continues to need her father’s approval and he condemns her work. Lady Margaret is apparently not a very talented writer. Fanny is viewed as and treated like a mental patient in her husband’s home. Crystal’s triumphant moment against her brother is undermined by her final realization that one success cannot make up for the years of his unloving behavior toward her. Only Gilchrist’s second-generation heroine, Nora Jane, seems to escape unpunished for—even to benefit from—her ultimate...

(The entire section is 696 words.)