Many years ago, a wife was expected to be submissive to her husband, never to question him and do as he says because he is the one who is in charge of making all of the decisions for the family. The wife’s role is to take care of the home and children. This role is that of an antiquated view of a wife. This is completely contradictory in comparison to what I understand in the poem 164 by Sor Juana Ines De la Cruz. In the poem the woman is questioning the mad and has suspicions of infidelity. Her role is that of a more modern woman which displays some control over the relationship.
The man tries to persuade her and wants to reassure her that he loves her. This is considered unconventional for a wife to do as she is expected to obey and trust her husband. In this current society men and women are equals and can play similar roles and make the same decisions in a marriage without one feeling inferior to the other. Many years ago even though man and woman being united in marriage was a mutual decision and having children was decided by both husband and wife, women were expected to have no opinion of their own in most of the family’s affairs.
As stated in the encyclopedie, “But although the husband and the wife have fundamentally the same interests in their marriage, it is nevertheless essential that governing authority belong to one or the other: now the affirmative right of civilized nations, the laws and the customs of Europe give this authority unanimously to the male being the one endowed with the greatest strength of mind and body contributing more to the common good in matters of sacred and human things” (pg 38). The husbands were the ones who spoke up and decided everything for the family because the man was thought of as being smarter than his wife.
He was intrusted to make meaningful decisions and his opinions were relevant in the eyes of the law than that of a women. In the poem 164 we see a whole different side of a women’s role in the marriage. The women is questioning the man and is the one who has more control in the marriage by having the man explain himself to her, stating “This afternoon, my darling, when we spoke,/ and in your face and gestures I could seel that I was no persuading you with words” (De la Cruz 1-3). She doubts his love for her and he wants to reassure her that he loves her unconditionally.
Traditionally this would not happen in a marriage. A women would not question her husband’s love and a man would not have to explain himself to his wife. It would just be what he says and she obeys. It was unheard of for a wife to question her husband. They would not even doubt their husbands love. It was the law that woman abide by their husbands rules. The encyclopedie states, “such that the woman must necessarily be subordinated to her husband and obey his orders in all domestic affairs. (pg 38 ). The wife is to not doubt her husband’s love for her or his decisions in whatever he choose to do in the marriage. In those times a man was considered strong, physically and mentally he was to never exhibit any vulnerability nor show any signs of emotional weakness, but in the poem he is pouring his heart out to the woman.
He wants to convince her she shouldn’t doubt him, she should trust him and not question his affections. The poem describes im as trying to be convincing of his love for her and proves it with much emotion stating, “I wish you might look straight into my heart;/ and love, who assisting my designs/ succeeded in what seemed impossible:/ for in the stream of tears which anguish loosed/ my heart itself, dissolved, dropped slowly down” (4-8). Showing his emotions and even shedding a tear for the love of a woman, a man was seen as weak. In these modern times it is equally acceptable for both men and women to display affection and show equal emotion. The husband is to have complete control over his wife.
The wife is not to act on nor make any choices without her husband. The encyclopedia states, “The husband according to nature itself the master of the house, the chief of the family, and that it therefore follows that the wife resides there at his leave, she is in all regards under the power of the husband, from which fact devolve diverse prerogatives which pertain personally to him” (pg 38). The wife belongs to her husband. She is his property and does with her how he pleases. If we look at how things are in a marriage in these modern times things are completely different.
A wife accusing her husband of infidelity and even treating him harshly was not tolerable in the ancient times. The husband having to prove his love and explaining anything to his wife are some of the many changes we see in marriage in these modern times. The poem states, “Enough unkindness now, my love, enough;/ don’t let these tyrant jealousies torment you/ nor base suspicions shatter your repose/ with foolish shadows, empty evidence:/ in liquid humor you have seen and touched/ my heart undone and passing through your hands” (9-14).
This describes how a husband wants to reassure his wife that there is no need for her to treat him badly. Not only is her treatment of her husband is unconventional but also can be seen as disrespect in the old times. In modern times it isn’t viewed that way. It is seen as men and women being equals. In these modern times we currently live in women can have the same power in decision making for the family in the same way that a man can compared to the antiquated times that was once the norm for a family.
In the same way that a women can take care of the children and home, a man can do that same. Also a man can take care of the kids and the home. In a modern marriage the roles that the wife and husband play doesn’t have to be completely adhere to what some may be used to in a traditional family setting. The husband and wife can express emotional feelings and affection towards each other in the same way in these modern times that weren’t common in the old times.