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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Few 19th Century Feminist Ideals in Literature

My critical response for this week focuses more on the concepts of human nature, individual, and community as they relate to feminist ideals in literature. These concepts are in the forefront of literature that considers key feminist issues as experienced by individual women in the context of American society. I will discuss here "The Revolt of Mother" by Mary Freeman Wilkins, although "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin deals with similar issues. I believe that both these works have enjoyed more acclaim in modern times since certain socio-economical and political realities have come to pass than perhaps they had enjoyed at the time they were first published.

Adonirum uses silence as an act of violence against women which makes it as appalling as rape or any other violent act in my eyes. How many suicides born of despondency resulting from such insensitivity might have been prevented by the mere effort of meaningful communication? This gruff man’s auspicious gift of a sound “almost inarticulate as a growl” in response to anything Sarah requests while she works like a slave to provide a home for him and his children is nothing short of evil and, like any evil, his violent disrespect and disregard would take advantage of the situation just as long as it was allowed to continue unchallenged. How sad that this had gone on so long until for Sarah it had become “her most native tongue.”

I see the motivation for the actions of Sarah to be concern for the mental health and well being of her family, as evident from the passage, “Nanny she can’t live with us after she’s married. She’ll have to go somewheres else to live away from us. . . . She wa’n’t ever strong . . . ‘an she ain’t fit to keep house an’ do everything herself. She’ll be all worn out inside of a year.” Sarah was artfully blameless, “a masterly keeper of her box of a house.” This gives some insight into who she was as an individual.

How did Sarah’s seemingly inevitable act of rebellion relate to the community? “[A]ny deviation from the ordinary course of life in quiet town was enough to stop all progress in it.” 40 years of broken promises and despair, not unlike Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness, had culminated in this shocking testament to Sarah’s resolve in an act of rebellion that anyone righteous of heart would have to deem necessary and justified. Adonirum had refused to allow any normative discourse. He had refused to engage in the decency of open communication with Sarah, a hard working and just woman who had to express the injustice she not only felt, but really witnessed and experienced. The only response to silence for a sane person is action, and the sole purpose of any action is, using God’s example, to accomplish that which is intended by the communicator. Defeated by the righteousness of the act, Adonirum could only be transformed by it and moved to tears as he responded with, “I’ll — put up the — partitions, an’ — everything you — want, mother.” Sometimes a man must be forced by a seemingly insane act to think sanely and soberly afterall.

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