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The Role of Women in Traditional Cultures

At the same time, the ambivalence felt toward women is evident as one of the men hits the girl's mother and is shot dead by Reis for doing so. Reis himself fist steals the girl and then reacts with kindness to her plight: "Such is the maddening effect of beauty upon the hearts of men!" (Yellow Bird 103). Women are lures, trophies, and receptacles of honor and goodness all at the same time.

Women embody the social values of love and family, while men often band together in conviviality and brotherhood deliberately apart from women. Danny and his friends in Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck follow this pattern, and the primary object of their affections is not women but the wine they drink every night. Sweets Ramirez is an example of the sort of predatory women these men encounter and fear even as they may desire them from time to time. She is described as if she were the aggressor, with words emphasizing her feline qualities: "How her voice purred drowsily!" (Steinbeck 98). The women are often depicted with masculine qualities, able to drink as well as the men, eager to fight, and the way love comes to Big Joe Portagee shows this as he wrestles with Tia Ignacia and suddenly falls in love. From the men's point of view, women are still snares into which they may fall and form which they seek to extricate themselves whenever possible, and so this is a society where maleness if celebrated while femaleness is revered and feared at the same time. Women are sought for parties, but they are shunned when they seem to be bent on changing men's lives. This is indeed the role that women seem to represent in most of these works--they are life-changing for men, domesticating them and so perpetuating society.

Women in The Zoot-Suit Murders are more varied in the way they are presented. This is a novel set in the 1940s but written with a more contemporary sensibility about equality and the frustrations felt by women because they are re...

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