Willfull Ignorance of Women

Willful Ignorance: For Women, By Men
In his poem “Glory of Women,” Siegfried Sassoon lends narrative voice the solider men of England and their calculated hatred of the flippant attitude of women towards the war. It is through their falsely created sense of innocence and the failed recognition of the reality of war that the men find grounds for their scorn. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness a similar character is seen: like the women in Sassoon’s narrative, Kurtz’s Intended is willfully ignorant, choosing to disregard certain aspects of the violence of imperialism at will. While this feminine disregard is self-imposed, it is also important to look at the role that the masculine characters play in the maintenance of it. While all the male characters recognize the contradictory nature of women, it is only Sassoon’s men who choose to share this fact with the women themselves. For Marlow in Heart of Darkness, the ignorance of the Intended is facilitated by his ability to rationalize lying. In “Glory of Women,” the immediacy of the soldiers to the violence caused by war and imperialism allows them to refute the reign of jingoism caused by lying, originally perpetuated by Marlow, from within the Empire.
The women in both narratives play the roles historically provided to them in a functioning, jingoistic society. For the women in Sassoon’s narrative, this means playing the picture of the loyal wife or lover of the men fighting on the fronts. The men narrating the poem make it immediately clear that this love is often choosy and limited, given only as “heroes, home on leave/Or when wounded in a mentionable place” (1-2). Here the women fail to understand the real implications of being a soldier: wounds become ‘mentionable,’ or socially trivial, those talked about but rarely seen. A wound of status eclipses the emotional wound. The women come to “believe/That chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace” (3-4): it is clear that this is only a belief, a religious conviction....