In many societies all over the world, the role of women in the society has many similarities as well as the differences. The differences and similarities have virtually stagnated over various ages. The above literary works of Benjamin Franklin and Jamaica Kincaid illustrates the diverse roles women play in different geographical locations and ages.
Benjamin Franklin a Founding Fathers of the United States was born on January 17, 1706 and died on April 17, 1790 aged 84. Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the glass 'armonica', the Franklin stove, bifocals, a carriage odometer, and the lightning rod. At the age of 24, Franklin publicly acknowledged an illegitimate son named William.
In June 25, 1745, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter "Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress", counseling a young man on how to channel his sexual urges. He states that a cure for sexual urges is unknown, and his advice would be to take a wife. Having doubts that the intended reader will finally marry, the writer outlines several advantages of marrying. Incase the above arguments fails; Franklin lists seven reasons why an older mistress is preferable to a young one. Advantages include greater prudence in conducting an intrigue, less risk of unwanted pregnancy, and better conversation (Benjamin Franklin). The unnamed correspondent is a friend of Franklin's named Cadwaller Colton, and it remains unknown whether Franklin was serious or if the letter was ever delivered according to John Richard Stevens (1997)
Born in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda on May 25, 1949, as Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson, Jamaica Kincaid is an American Caribbean gardener, gardening writer and novelist. During the academic year she teaches at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, lives with her family in North Bennington, Vermont, during the summers. In St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda she was brought up by her mother and stepfather, a carpenter, until 1965 at age of 19 where she moved to America, New York to work as an aupair. She changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because her family disapproved of her writing, in 1973. She has given birth to a son, Harold, and a daughter, Annie, with her ex-husband Allen Shawn. She recently converted to Judaism a minority religion with minority of Black people (Halper, 2003). She writes extensively on women and their relationships with one another, especially mother to her daughter to be precise as depicted in her works such as Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, and "Girl" which a collection of stories and was first published in 1983 in At the Bottom of the River.
In her poem "Girl" she talks about the values and norms imposed on women by the society, and sometimes, their own community and social group as well. Here, the major theme of conflicts between a mother and her daughter and traditional and Western or modern values are portrayed by her effective illustration of daughter's relationship with her mother. The literary work was done when St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda was moving from a colonial state and my people were at crossroads on whether to keep African-based Obeah culture or be assimilated in the British or Western ways.
In both the literary works the writers portray that women are expected to obtain and maintain clothes and are responsible for men's clothing like in the case of Kincaid's "Girl" where it begins with laundry: "Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; After this the mother comes with demonstration on "how you iron your father's khaki shirt so that it doesn't have a crease; this is how you iron your father's khaki pants so that they don't have a crease". In Benjamin Franklin, "Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress" prudent healthy Wife is supposed to take care of her husband well so that he succeeds in his profession. This is also seen where the "Girl" is taught how to prepare grow and prepare different foods. In this family a girl is expected to learn how to fish and to "soak salt fish overnight before you cook it." Thus, in the two literary works the women is supposed to be caring of the husband and the rest of the family in terms of general wellbeing of the family.
Being economically savvy is a virtue implied by both the writers in their works. In the "Girl" she learns how to shop for bread grow root vegetable, okra and dasheen, and prepare pumpkin fritters, doukona (a coconut, banana and cornmeal pudding)bread pudding and pepper pot. These are humble dishes which are supposed to "make ends meet". In Benjamin Franklin, "Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress" a wife is supposed to be "with her good Economy", and the husband will be a Fortune sufficient.
The art of nursing is required of women in these literary work whereby in the case of "Girl", she has to learn "how to make a good medicine for a cold" and in the Benjamin Franklin's work the lady has to "learn to do a 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick". Therefore, the two societies though centuries apart, this knowledge was mandatory for all women and girls who are about to become wives.
Behaving well in public places especially in front of men was greatly emphasized whereby the "Girl" is told "this is how to behave in the presence of men who don't know you very well, and this way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming". The mistress in Benjamin Franklin's work "Advice to a Young Man" "they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion." Thus both women and girls are supposed to carry themselves with decorum to avoid tainting their images.
Being beautiful despite the age and chores one does is not expected of women in the two literary works. In "Advice to Young Man" the lady learns how to maintain her attractiveness by having confidence in her by not leaning on looks. The "Girl" has to be smart even if it means washing with her "own spit."
In the "Girl" the mother tells the daughter how to "how to bully a man;
this is how a man bullies you" Thus the woman has role to play in introducing her daughter to complicated dating world. While the mistress in the "Advice to Young Man" knows how to effortlessly seduce young boys by knowing how to "kindly take care of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels". Therefore, dating roles in both works are antagonistic whereby girls are expected to be chased by boys while old ladies seduce the young boys.
Therefore, from the above roles of women in both the "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid and Benjamin Franklin's "Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress" have significant similarities and disparities as also evident in the world today.