When Women are Unbearable

As I was reading this section of She, I was surprised by the amount of violence associated with women in the Amahagger culture.  Unlike Middlemarch and The Moonstone, the women in this novel have much more power over men but only to a certain extent.  Billali explains to Holly that women do what they want in their society because “without them the world could not go on; they are the source of life” (107).  I was impressed with the respect and recognition women received until I read that when the women get “unbearable” the men “rise and kill the old ones as an example to the young ones, and to show them that we are the strongest” (107).  While it initially seemed like women were equal, if not superior, to men this is obviously not the case.

She is unlike characters such as Rachael, Dorothea and Rosamund in that she does not need protection but others need to be protected from her.  While her beauty is “white as snow” and Holly describes her voice as “the softest and yet most silvery voice I ever heard” She strikes fear in the hearts of the men around her (131).  This tension between intense feminine beauty and fear is an unusual dichotomy because we normally associated feminine beauty with happiness.  When She reveals herself to Holly, he is unable to put her beauty into words.  He does, however, say, “this beauty, with all its loveliness and purity was evil” (143).  She is an all-powerful ruler (as her title She-who-must-be-obeyed demonstrates) and all who disobey her perish.

If She is such a powerful female leader, why are men permitted to suppress the Amahagger women?  It is refreshing to see such a fierce female leader but I have a feeling that her rule will not last through the end of the novel.

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