The women in Somebody’s Home are all victims of a patriarchal society that always proclaims the superiority of men over women. No matter how much the world has changed or how many people are fighting for women’s rights, somewhere, the idea of women remains the same. Be it Southern California or India; women continue to be perceived as the caretaker of the household and the members of the family. Women can work and can earn, but they should earn less than their husbands, partners, or male colleagues, and even after working long hours, they have to come home and do the household chores. They have to be what everyone wants them to be: at home, a woman has to assume the role of a perfect mother, daughter, wife, sister, or partner; at the workplace, she has to be the perfect boss, employee, or colleague; and in the social circle, she has to be the perfect friend or neighbor. She cannot fail at any of these, and if she does, there are several terms that can be used to describe her. It’s surprising how society expects so much and all at once from women, but when it comes to men, things are entirely different. This inequality is what infuriates every woman, but at some point, every woman has at least once judged another woman based on the standards that society has set for women, making it evident that not just men but women too can be patriarchal.
In this novel, we have three primary female characters who are narrators as well: Julie, Sandi, and Jess, and all three women give us different pictures of oppression and subjugation. Julie is the trophy wife of rich real estate developer Roger Jones, who is a hot shot in Orange County. She has wanted to leave her controlling husband for a while now but couldn’t manage to, mostly because she was scared of what he would do to her. She had once tried to leave, but Roger had blown up her plans by making her a lot of promises that he clearly didn’t keep. Julie was born and brought up in Florida. Her mother worked in a bottling plant, and her father died young. She has always been embarrassed about her humble background and has suffered from severe physical appearance issues.
As soon as she got the chance to attend college in California, she took up a part-time job in a clinic for plastic surgeries, where the doctor would experiment on her with the latest techniques. Soon she no longer looked like the old Julie but like a mannequin with the perfect face and body, none of which was real. She had finally met the unrealistic beauty standards that society sets for women, which helped her meet the kind of rich man she had hoped to get married to and start a family with. She did what she had wanted to do and had a child, attended parties arranged for and by the wives of rich husbands like her, and tried to be as involved as she possibly could be in this kind of flimsy life. She became so obsessed with ‘fixing’ herself that when her daughter was born, and she saw her having a broad forehead, she requested Roger to give her the money required for performing surgery on their daughter. This shows the kind of obsession that she had developed regarding adhering to beauty standards.
When she finally decided to leave Roger, it took her a lot of guts and years of planning because she realized how her life had become all about pretending to like the things that money can buy, knowing that the hollow that remains within her cannot be filled by anything other than love. Roger would remain the control freak husband that he was and would continue to see her as someone who he needs only to show off at fancy parties and to the media. For him, her needs would never matter, so getting out of such a horrendous marriage while she still had the time would be the best decision. She decided to stand up for herself and to undo all the harm that she had caused herself in the past and do all of that, which would help her find her former self.
Sandi was in a toxic marriage with her husband, Doug, the head pastor of the church in Orange County. Her father was also a pastor, and she was a Sunday school teacher. She had been taught from a very young age that men had been bestowed with the responsibility of carrying out God’s plan. That’s quite superior when compared to women, who are the helpers and who have the role of taking care of men and their households. Women must bear men’s children and take care of the family, providing whatever the family needs and wants. When Doug courted her, she knew that he had been married once before, but her family considered their match a perfect one and felt that she was “chosen out of the flock,” for which she should be lucky.
Sandi liked Doug’s son Tom and really cared for him. She knew that the little boy needed a mother, and she wanted to give him all her love and attention. She knew Doug to be a nice person and got married happily, only to find after a while that the man had severe anger issues. He took out all his frustrations on her and Tom and ill-treated her on several occasions. She also found out that Doug tried to take advantage of young divorcees who came to the church and had affairs with several of them. She thought of leaving Doug, but her religion has taught her that divorce is a sin. She decided to stay back for her children. She was a very God-fearing person, and under no circumstances was she ready to break any of the laws as propounded by her religion.
The day that Doug hit her in front of the children, she realized that she should not stay with him anymore because that would affect her children just like it has affected Tom. However, after reaching the end of the novel, we can see that she has a long way to go. Though she left Doug and took up painting for a living like she had always wanted, she hasn’t been able to get rid of the years of conditioning and brainwashing by her husband, family, society, and most importantly, her religion. She still saw herself as a mother whose job is only to watch her kids’ backs and take care of them, irrespective of what she wants and needs in her life.
The character Jess, a young girl of 17, who is confident of herself and has her goals clear, seems better when compared to her mothers, Julie and Sandi. But she, too, has her own problems. She might be comfortable with the way she looks and might seem confident outwardly, but she is equally a victim of her father’s controlling attitude. The worst part about her is that she is well aware of it but chooses not to do anything because she loves the lifestyle she has, which is all due to her father’s riches. As a person who is young yet so aware of the situations at her home, one would expect her to side with her mother and help her set up a new life. But being a careless and selfish teenager, she doesn’t bother to think about her mother’s problems.
In fact, she tries demotivating her, saying things to her all because she is in her senior year when her mother decided to take the decision of staying away from her father. Yes, her mother has never been there for her and has always abandoned her, but for someone who is so perceptive, she acts like a typical spoiled teenager who feels that the world should revolve around her. She feels that her friends and strangers are the only ones who would understand her and help her out, and her mother is only messing up her perfect life unnecessarily. One would expect kids of the digital age to be aware of the importance of supporting women and standing up for their rights, but her character, in this case, comes as a major disappointment.
Being a well-read, sensible girl, she acts like a foolish privileged girl with influential parents who whines about the slightest discomfort in her life while ignoring major issues like when Chad, her ex-boyfriend, tries to kiss her and she doesn’t want to; she lets him instead of pushing him away and standing up for what she wants. She succumbs to his actions playfully, even when she doesn’t like them. What is the point, then, of having so much knowledge, independence, and insight if you are just going to let men perceive you as nothing but an object?