The Fourth Alarm W
In John Speeches short story, “The Fourth Alarm,” the narrator is perplexed by the recent actions of his rebellious wife. She quit her job, partakes as a nude actor in an amateur theatre, and refuses to listen to her male chauvinist husband. The narrator’s wife’s abandonment of the Apollonian for the Dionysian serves as a modern day Adam and Eve that, instead of questioning the sinful nature of man, questions the traditional masculine-feminine roles in society.
According to Biblical tradition, Adam and Eve lived prosperously in an orderly, Apollonian garden -? Eden. However, once Eve strays from this order and eats the apple of knowledge (while tempting Adam to eat it as well), they both become tainted with original sin. Adam and Eves rejection of tradition, as symbolized by eating the forbidden fruit, results in their ejection from the Garden of Eden and into a more chaotic future. As Eve rejected the Apollonian in an attraction to the Dionysian, the narrator’s wife rejected her traditional role of mother and teacher and embraced the Dionysian traits of nudity, disorder, and orgy.
She disobeys her masculine husband and tempts him to take off his clothes; get rid of his attach, wallet, and keys; and embrace sexual equality. In essence, she is striping off what the narrator considers his identity, “l held my valuables in my right hand, my literal identification” (Achiever 196). Unlike Adam and Eve, which primary subject matter is original sin, “The Fourth Alarm” delves into the feminine break from social subjugation. Achiever does not demonic the narrators wife as the Bible demotions Eve. He instead focuses on the husband’s reaction to his wife’s embracement of a sexual equality that challenges male-female societal roles.
The narrator, spite striping, can not let go of his worldly possessions that represent his masculinity. He is comforted by tradition and wishes his wife would be more “nostalgic” and yearning of the old gender roles like he is. Achiever s portrayal of the narrator and his difficulty in accepting change illustrates society difficulty in leaving traditional female subjugation and moving towards gender equality. The underlying question Achiever asks the reader in “the Fourth Alarm” is if we are ready to accept change, to put down tradition, and to progress to a society marked by equality where the masculine and feminine are equals.