Images Of Women Images of Women: Major Barbara, A Passage to India, and the poetry of T.S. Eliot The Victorian Era was a difficult and confusing time for women, and their trials are reflected in the literature of the time. Although the three pieces of literature being discussed are not entirely about women, they shed light on the Victorian ideal of women and the ideals of the authors who created these women characters. In contrasting and comparing women in Major Barbara, A Passage to India, and T.S. Eliots poetry, two key points will be discussed: distinct archetypes of women, and how the “absence” of women is used to signify their importance.
There are four different archetypes of women present in the three works , the first being the heroines. The heroines are characterized by their success in dealing with the limitations of spiritual and physical matters, eventually accepting these limitations or reconciling their differences into their lives. Mrs. Moore is the heroine of A Passage to India. She is depicted as a heroine because of a small event that does not concern her personally. She comes to India just to further the happiness of her children, and due to the circumstances, sacrifices the integrity of her own self. She is at first very compassionate, with a love that extends over all creation, religion, and every living thing.
(Shahane 29) She lives in a world where everything is in harmony, until her perfect vision is shattered by her experience in the Marabar Caves. After she enters the cave, Mrs. Moore hears an echo, which seems to whisper, “Everything exists, nothing has value.”  Collier 2 This seems to rob Mrs. Moore of everything she holds valuable; her spiritual life and her relationships with family and friends. (Shahane 87) Everything has lost its meaning. Mrs. Moore finally sees all the troubles in the world, and how insignificant the world is. Despite her negative outlook after the Marabar Caves incident, Mrs.
Moore accepts these realizations into her life. She breaks off relationships with her family and friends because she can no longer pretend that these relationships can exist with no meaning. She concerns herself with only trivial things, such as playing cards. In Major Barbara, the heroine is Major Barbara herself. She has more typical characteristics of a heroine than does Mrs.
Moore. Shaw presents Barbara to us as a strong-willed, compassionate young girl. She is unashamed of her salvation and willingly spreads its message. Similarly, her father Undershaft is unashamed of his work in war and death. When Undershaft arrives in England, Barbara is unwillingly drawn into his ammunitions business affairs. She objects to this type of business, but through their sharing of ideas, her values and morals are thrown into question. She realizes that all religions glorify death and passivity and denial of the self.
She begins to believe that Undershafts “religion” and hers are no different. Based on this new belief, she chooses to leave the Salvation Army and to stay with Cusins working in her fathers business. The second archetype of women is the socialite group. This is the group most criticized by their creators. These women have lives with no real meaning. They are devoted entirely to their outside activities, and cannot think apart from the rules of the society to which they belong. They will not hesitate to criticize the women who do not adhere to societys strict rules.
Mrs. Turton in A Passage to India belongs to this Collier 3 archetype of women. She is a cruel, selfish woman because of absorption in herself and in the Anglo-Indian society. She even tries to convince Mrs. Moore and Adela of her ideas about Indians: “Youre superior to them, dont forget that.”  Lady Britomart is the socialite of Major Barbara. Her socialite manner begins in the home, and extends outward.
She orders her children more than she mothers them. She is only concerned with family affairs if money is involved. She is enraged that Undershaft will not change his traditions of successorship to include her son Steven, and even more enraged at the immoral ideas that Undershaft shares with his children. The criticism brought upon these types of women by their author-creators seems to indicate the rules and standards of society mean nothing. It is the inside lives of men and women that make them heroines or heroes.
These women have no initiative to change, and would be shunned from their societies if they were to do so. The idealistic archetype describes the women who pursue something ideal which they have little knowledge about. They exclude the “real” aspects of what they are pursuing. Sooner or later they realize how inadequate their quest and their lives are, but by this point they are so committed to their ideal dream they cannot change. Adela in A Passage to India is a perfect example of this archetype.
She travels to see the “real India”, to meet the “real people” of India, and to meet her perfect husband. She pursues this quest avidly, asking to visit with the Bhattacharyas, visiting with Aziz and Fielding, and travelling to the Marabar Caves. It is here in the caves that Adelas dreams are also shattered. She is entranced by the reflection of the match-flames on the wall. She notices that if the match touches its reflection, it is immediately snuffed out. “The flames touch Collier 4 one another, kiss, expire.”  To Adela, this is a reflection of her life and her relationships. (Shahane 87) It is a glimpse of a spirit that she would like to unite with, but is always shut out from by the barriers of flesh.
Adela tries to rekindle her relationship with Ronny, but realizes they are too involved in their external lives to be involved in anything deeper. The flame expires. Adela also tries to change her life after the trial against Aziz. Her downfall comes from wanting two incompatible things: to truly understand people, yet still stick to her standards of honesty and justice. The last archetype describes the “ideal” woman. T.S.
Eliots poetry is full of images of perfect, unreachable women. La Figlia che Piange is the best example of his ideal-woman images. He envisions the woman as his model. He instructs her to pose for him, to hold flowers in her arms, and to “weave the sunlight” in her hair. The narrator seems to admire the woman he is painting a picture of, but he does not trust her.
He sees a”fugitive resentment” in her eyes, and she “turn …