It is probably true in most traditionally-minded families that an individual born female is raised, chiefly, to be a wife and mother. Her worth is measured by how well she cooks, how often she cleans, and how many sons she can birth. Her job is to care for others, and she is raised to know that selflessness is her calling.
So what happens to a woman who misses her chance to prove her worth in that societally acceptable way? What happens when a woman finds that before she has a chance to bear children, her husband has died? What is her purpose then?
She could remarry, perhaps, but this is unlikely. She is only getting older, and maybe she can never have babies. She could become a nun – but at the moment, she is too bitter toward God for her misfortune, and too numb to helping the needy.
Now is her chance to exercise selfishness, to achieve a dream. But for too long now, she has dreamed within the limits of her little village, and she doesn’t know all of her potential.
She doesn’t know that she could be an advocate for women like herself, the ones who are abandoned by the culture that created them. She doesn’t understand her intrinsic value as a human being. She can’t comprehend that she was meant to be anything other than a wife and a mother.
She is caught trying to find meaning in a life that has become meaningless.