Whores And Housewives In From Here To Eternity

2227 words - 9 pages

From Here to Eternity follows the story of numerous Army men and their exhilarating experiences during 1941. James Jones’s dense novel is filled with a spectrum of emotions from pure anger, violence, racism, suicide, happiness and depression that by the end of the novel the reader experiences an emotional roller coaster. The Army men in this novel are portrayed as strong, independent, and in charge. On the other hand, women in From Here to Eternity are seen as subordinate and treated like objects that can be bossed around by men. The women in this novel are living in a hierarchical male dominated society where they are seen as objects of desire for men. It appears there are only two options presented at the time for women in this novel; they can either be a prostitute or a housewife.
Alma Schmidt and Karen Holmes are two examples of the oppression that women face in From Here to Eternity, which places Alma as a whore and Karen as a housewife. Both women are controlled and live in a society were men are dominate. Alma and Karen struggle to find their individuality and identities through much of the novel and both women have negative self-images of themselves because they believe all of the destructive things they hear directed towards them. Majority of the characters in From Here to Eternity feel trapped and are discontent with their current lives. These individuals feel like they all have something better to discover and amount to in life. I believe the two individuals who are the most trapped and unhappy are Alma Schmidt and Karen Holmes.
Alma Schmidt is described as “nothing but a common whore” (Jones 235) by Prewitt and is later referred to as a “professional whore” (Jones 671) throughout much of the novel. These objectifying and crude depictions of Alma are unfair because society at the time was pushing Alma and other women into prostitution to earn a living. Prostitution has a negative connation associated with it but Alma and other prostitutes know that getting involved in prostitution is part of “the system.” Obtaining the job as a prostitute is just another way for women to make money who do not have any other options, there is “[nobody] to blame it’s the system” (Jones 360). Prewitt first negatively describes Alma and the other women as “disembodied breasts and bellies, and long thighs” (Jones 219). He also depicts the women as “fat gum-cud-chewing cows wearing the one piece short suits” (Jones 225). Alma is not only viewed as a whore from outsiders but she also internalizes the negativity that she receives from her profession. During her encounter with Prewitt she asks him “how could a man love a whore?” (Jones 429) which further establishes Alma’s low self-esteem and belief that she really is nothing but a whore. Further, upon meeting Alma Prewitt thinks to himself “suffering doesn’t make whores beautiful, it makes them ugly,” (Jones 227) which demonstrates that men generally do not care if a woman has suffered or care about their...

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