From time immemorial the society has always outlined the roles of men and women within the context of a family. In historic times, women were confined to homes and had the greater responsibility of keeping the homes as well as taking care of the children. On the other hand, men had the responsibility of fending for their families and providing for them. These gender roles largely defined the position of each gender within the society. For instance, women were not expected to take up duties and jobs that were ordinarily meant for men. The rise of the feminist movements advocated for gender equity arguing that the society had oppressed women by confining them to homes. Such movements advocated for equal opportunities for both women and men in education and employment. This led to enactment of legislations that prohibit discrimination against women in employment in the mid of the 20th century (Padley, 18).
Despite the efforts that have been put in place to ensure equity among men and women, the traditional gender roles seem to continuously dictate the roles of women and men in the contemporary society. For instance, few women have taken up careers in field that are traditionally male dominated such as engineering (Padley, 24). In the play “Proof” Lynn Nottage exemplifies how gender roles have been propagated and determined the position of women within the society. This this analysis focuses on two characters in the play namely Loureen and Florence in demonstrating the role of women as brought out in this play.
The play depicts Loureen as a quarrelsome and rebellious wife. The beginning of the first scene notes a quarrel between Loureen and her husband Samuel. Apparently, the two characters quarrel over the fact that Loureen did not pick the shirt that Samuel intended to put on the following day. During this quarrel, Samuel gets burnt in the kitchen. Frightened, Loureen apologizes to Samuel promising to wash another shirt for him. She does not want to feel guilty for the death of her husband.
This interaction between Samuel and Loureen depicts the roles of women in this society. After the death of her husband, Loureen apologies and even promises to be ideal woman that the society expects of her. In the context of this encounter, the ideal wife is one who takes up the role of washing clothes for her husband and children and generally taking care of their home. By promising to be good and always wash her husband’s cloths, Loureen admits that her primary role as a wife is to take care of her husband and her children at home as an ideal wife.
In this society women are supposed to be both dutiful and faithful. She feels very uncomfortable to confine herself to such roles and consequently comes up as a rebellious wife. This rebellion spurs the quarrel that is evident at the begging of the play. As such this character exemplifies the traditional roles of women within this society and how such roles have served to intimidate women. They are no longer comfortable to be confined to such roles and hence rebel in families and in the general society.
Florence has a character resemblance to Loureen. She is both her best friend as well as her neighbor. The play describes the two women as age mates. Loureen call Florence and instructs her to call her 911. However, she tells her that she has killed Samuel; Florence does not believe her at first. She does not believe that a woman just like her could actually rebel against the authority of her husband and go ahead to kill her. Therefore, she opts to go back to her house since she knows that Samuel is never happy to find her at his house when he comes back.
The character of Florence constantly changes from that of a traditional woman to that of a modern feminist. At one point she praises Loureen for being daring to kill her husband. She reminds her of the many times they have discussed about killing their husbands and how exited they were about the idea. She further reminds her of the much freedom she stands to gain by having killed her husband. On the other hand, she demonstrates the characteristics of a typical traditional women confined in the gender roles of a women. At one point she tell Loureen that she needs to go back to her house and cook for her husband since he will not be happy to come home and find that dinner is not ready. This exemplifies her roles as women in cooking for her husband. In conclusion, the two characters in this play demonstrate the roles of women in families and how women are becoming increasingly uncomfortable to be confined within such roles. The roles include, cooking for their husbands and children and washing clothes for their families among other domestic chores. The play further demonstrates that men have taken authority over women to the extent that women are no longer comfortable.