Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

In a strict limitation on women’s ability

In the excerpt “One out of Twelve: Writers Who are Women in our Century”, a part of the 1978 nonfiction book Silences, written by Tillie Olsen, the author examines the barriers and abuses which women back in the 20th century faced in their lives with regards to the realm of literature. Centered around the women’s movement at the time, Olsen takes note in the various responsibilities women had not just in the household and their role in it but also too that of their work life. In doing so, the author makes the attempt to get across the idea that such burdens placed a strict limitation on women’s ability to write, ultimately hampering their individual expression. Yet, through her concise use of rhetorical questions and logos, she is able to emphasize how these cultural injustices and shortcomings have discouraged women from realizing their literary potential. Olsen in the beginning of the passage avers how “women finally had access to work and areas of life experience previously denied”; nevertheless she does not fail to make known the ongoing obstacles women still continued to face during that day and age, an idea reinforced by Olsen’s use of logos and wherein grants the audience the opportunity to better grasp the purpose behind the piece. She immediately delves into analyze the fundamental distinctions that lie in the different achievements of men and women which in turn reveals there is only “one women writer of achievement for every twelve men so ranked”,  reaffirming the harsh reality that men do, indeed, dominate the field of literature and women are majorly unrepresented . However, on the account of this statistic Olsen also uses logos to touch on the concept that many of these female voices remain mute as a result of similar gender bias, leaving it in the minds of the reader to acknowledge this flawed ratio when reading taking into consideration the rest of the piece. Following this account, Olsen invokes the use rhetorical questions to convey the main idea of her piece, which calls upon the thought of why female authors were being silenced and  suppressed. She brings it upon herself to ask  “What, not true for men but only for women, makes this enormous difference? Why are so many more women silenced than men?”, drawing in the reader to simultaneously reflect upon this and eliciting an answer for why women were seen as inferior and readily oppressed and silenced by society and men and  why they were given a double standard as opposed to men. Additionally, Olsen also questions the legitimacy concerning women just as they overcome all of the obstacles put before them to get their work published,  and why is it that their work is rarely discussed and almost never taught. It is with these rhetorical questions that olsen is able to express her discontent with the societal view and treatment of women and call the reader to question the institutionalized sexism within their society and many professional fields. Olsen’s goal in this piece seems utterly clear; to lay forth the “silences” created by societal expectations of women’s role in life; the ones that hold back women from ever becoming an achiever, or a novelist or poet in their own right. By employing a variety of rhetorical devices in an essay scrutinizing these “silences”, Olsen draws focus on the reinforced expectations of women as “wives, mothers, enablers” and consequently questions and refutes the reasons for institutionalized sexism within society.    


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