The Feminine Mystique

The Concentration Camp Symbol Analysis

The Concentration Camp Symbol Icon

Friedan uses the extreme analogy of likening a housewife to a prisoner in a concentration camp to demonstrate the way in which women “adjust” to their oppressed condition as housewives—a condition which destroys their sense of identity—in the same way in which prisoners adjusted to life in Nazi camps. While Friedan acknowledges her risky comparison, agreeing that “the suburban house is not a concentration camp” and that “American housewives [are not] on their way to the gas chamber,” she insists that housewifery and suburban comforts are still a kind of “trap” which women must “escape,” just as the prisoner must escape the camp, to “recapture” their freedom and lost sense of self.

The Concentration Camp Quotes in The Feminine Mystique

The The Feminine Mystique quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Concentration Camp. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Domesticity and Femininity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton edition of The Feminine Mystique published in 1963.
Chapter 12 Quotes

There is also a new vacant sleepwalking, playing-a-part quality of youngsters who do not know what they are supposed to do, what the other kids do, but do not seem to feel alive or real in doing it.

Related Characters: Betty Friedan (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Concentration Camp
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
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The comfortable concentration camp that American women have walked into or have been talked into by others […] denies women’s adult human identity. By adjusting to it, a woman stunts her intelligence to become childlike, turns away from individual identity to become an anonymous biological robot in a docile mass. She becomes less than human, preyed upon by outside pressures, and herself preying upon her husband and children. And the longer she conforms, the less she feels as if she really exists. She looks for her security in things, she hides the fear of losing her human potency by testing her sexual potency, she lives a vicarious life through mass daydreams or through her husband and children. She does not want to be reminded of the outside world; she becomes convinced there is nothing she can do about her own life or the world that would make a difference.

Related Characters: Betty Friedan (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Concentration Camp
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
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