While modern society claims to give everyone the same rights regardless of their sex and class, in many cultures, women are still believed to be endowed with less intelligence and strength, and therefore, enjoy a lower status than men. However, such stereotypical beliefs are contradicted in the short story “The Dinner Party” by Morna Gardner, where the main character, the hostess, by remaining calm and acting wisely in a crisis, disproves the colonel’s stereotype that women’s natural instinct during any crisis is to scream. Through the character of the hostess, Gardner conveys the message that the stereotypical beliefs about women are incorrect and that women are just as calm, brave, and wise as men are when they are in a crisis.
The hostess questions the stereotypical beliefs about women by remaining calm during a dangerous situation. In the short story “The Dinner Party,” the hostess feels a cobra crawling on her feet. Instead of screaming hysterically–as the colonel suggests–,“she is staring straight ahead, [only] her muscles [are] contracting slightly” (Gardner 1). The character of the hostess proves that anyone has the natural instinct of being afraid under life-threatening circumstances, but one has the ability to suppress the urge to hysterically. Also, the American guest “[only] sees a strange expression come over the face of the hostess” (Gardner 1), which shows that the hostess can even control her facial expression under such terrifying circumstances. The hostess is one of many women that can easily disprove the colonel’s stereotype about women.
Furthermore, the hostess’s bravery proves that women have outgrown the-jump-at-the-sight-of-a-mouse era. When the cobra crawls over to the bowl of milk “screams ring out as [the American] jumps to slam the veranda doors safely shut” (Gardner 2). This shows all of the party guests are terrified, while the hostess, who has actually encountered the snake, suppresses her fear and acts bravely. Also, the hostess’s reaction at the end of the story demonstrates she is truly not afraid. When the American naturalist asks her how she knew about the cobra, “a faint smile lights up [her] face as she replies” it “was crawling across [her] foot” (Gardner 2). Therefore, the hostess’s bravery proves that women can act as courageously as any men in a crisis.
Apart from remaining calm and acting bravely, the hostess also demonstrates how wise women are when faced with any possible threat. In the short story “The Dinner Party,” the hostess illustrates that women can make wise decisions in a crisis. For instance, the hostess thinks of a bowl of milk as a bait to lure the cobra out and “[summons] the native boy standing behind her chair,” asking him urgently to “place a bowl of milk on the veranda” (Gardner 1). Thinking of the strategy to bait out a cobra in such a crisis requires the person to be extremely wise and quick-witted. The hostess’s wise decision proves that in a crisis women can think as logically and wisely as men if not better.
Through the character of the hostess, the author, Morna Gardner, is aiming to break the stereotypical beliefs that women are not as calm, brave, and wise as men under dangerous circumstances. Such stereotypical beliefs about women would undermine women’s rights and can limit their opportunities. Fewer opportunities would generate more stereotypical beliefs about women; as a result, a vicious cycle would be formed. Therefore, people should act against gender biases and start promoting gender equality to ensure everyone receives what they deserve.