Feminists are concerned with changing the way women are viewed and treated; one way they do this is through encouraging equality between the sexes. They also are concerned with the way women are portrayed through literature. They appreciate a story that shows what women have endured and what these women have done to take control of their own lives. Because literature is a reflection of life, the Feminist critic analyzes a fictional work based on the way women are defined in a literary work.
In many fictional stories, the main female character seeks to break away from what has restricted her or bound her to her life. In Kate Chopin's works, the female character awakens from a life-in-death existence to either physically die or to live a life she wasn't aware of before. In this new life, the female character becomes fully aware of life itself. Many female writers, like Chopin, chose to expose the injustice they had experienced in being a woman. These female writers wanted to be heard and they wanted the same rights that men had available to them.
A research topic for Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is, why was it necessary for Mrs. Mallard to die? What kind of life would she have experienced had she lived?
The female reader wants to identify with the female character in the literary work; she wants the female character to be a role model whom she can remember and emulate. However, because both men and women have created unrealistic female characters, this identification is often not possible. The writer creates the character he wants to see, not the character as she is. Instead of being given what she wants, the female reader is bombarded with the stereotyped female characters: the submissive or the opposite, the domineering wife, the seductress, the sex object, the prostitute or the old maid.
With this topic, the research concentrates on a particular writer and the method used to create female characters. Did this writer base his main female character on a stereotype? If so, why?
Realism and the Reader
The basic assumption tied into reading is that the reader will learn from what she has read. When reading literature, the reader learns from the characters' lives as they are presented in the fictional work. The reading process becomes a dual process: The reader has to understand and make sense of what he or she has just read, and the reader has to be able to identify with the characters. The feminist critic analyzes the impact of the main female character and determines if she is realistic. In other words, is this character true to what the female reader has known through her experience?
Research based on this topic will look at the connection between the way the character is presented and the experience of the reader.
- "Sexual/Texual Politcs: Feminist Literary Theory"; Toril Moi; Second Edition, 2002
- Photo Credit reading image by William Berry from Fotolia.com
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