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Traditionally, in times of war, women have often remained at home, silently supporting the men of their society in the pursuit of victory. The role as silent supporter has traditionally been for women: the man makes the decision to go off to war and the woman accepts it, hoping he comes back to her alive and healthy. She rarely gets any say and her opinions are rarely considered. The lead female character in William Dean Howell’s “Editha” shatters these “meek and mild” stereotypes, although she has naive and romantic notions about war and its consequences. Editha has strong, loud, opinionated beliefs, and she uses her feminine wiles to detrimentally inflict those beliefs and opinions on others causing harm. It is these qualities that make her a less-than-endearing character. By rejecting her traditional gender role and exhibiting behaviors and traits that are stereotypically viewed as negative attributes for women—such as vanity, selfishness, naivety, and manipulation—Editha becomes an unlikeable anti-heroine that causes more harm than good.
Editha Balcom finds that the newly declared Spanish-American War is “glorious” (Howells 413) and preordained as “God meant it to be war” (415). She takes this patriotic fervor and decides that her fiancé George Gearson must fight in the war. The problem with this is that George “seemed to despise even more that he abhorred” (413) the idea of war. Despite knowing this, due to her idealized view of her country, ...