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Femininity in Victorian Literature - Book Report/Review Example

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Subversion of Victorian stereotypes may have given rise to the New Woman also sought to silence her within the maddening attic of isolation and disrepute. Bertha Mason, the popular postmodern figure of Feminist criticism from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte finds an entire counter narrative dedicated to her in Jean Rhys' postcolonial metanarrative, "Wide Sargasso Sea" - a pastiche that explores issues of gender, race and identity within the framework of deconstruction of 'White, Male Western Discourse'…
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Femininity in Victorian Literature

Download file to see previous pages... If Shaw is unconsciously exploring issues dear to feminism, then Rhys is psycho-sexually and politically discussing its impact today. George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" first appeared in 1912. It was first performed in 1913; and was published in 1916. It's a comedy that dramatizes the social arrangements (institutions or languages) that enforce relations of power between man and woman.
Shaw's play was originally based on the classical legend from Ovid's "Metamorphoses" about Pygmalion, who falls in love with his own sculpture, Galatea. In the myth, Venus/Aphrodite gives life to the statue signifying Liza, who of course fails to live up to her standard of a "statue" (performance, silence and as per the instructions of patriarchal "linguistic" ideologies). First she's shown to be a poor, illiterate flower girl, with an accent that wouldn't allow her to achieve a better position. Higgins's profession is ironically suitable in getting the function quite clear: he is the male tutor, who must intervene within the chaotic but free realm of Liza's consciousness and make her a "real" woman through the performatory acts that must naturally define her gender. He usurps the position of the "logos"2 and marginalizes Liza through discipline and punishment the fate that must constitute her race.

Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea" let's the "Other"3 mingles into voices of proletariat, feminist, colonized and the hybrid cultural crisis within his Caribbean novel, where problems of identity are interrelated beyond the obvious faade of society or politics. The psychological split of the colonized or that of the "subject" beyond the intelligible demands of language and discourse defines the absence that marks the book. Bertha Mason fails once again. Rhys re-invents Bronte's misrepresentation of Creole women and the West Indies and thus Antoinette's feelings of displacement and complete subjugation and her attempts at freedom appear typically as 'madness' in the eyes of the colonizer (male), since his discourse only labels the dominated colonized people (feminized in their docile submission and silence) and their "primitive" or "savage" actions as uncivilized. Antoinette's subjugation through the marriage first comes when it becomes negotiated completely by the men in both side of the family. Rochester's father and brother, Antoinette's stepfather and, subsequently, her stepbrother, Richard Mason all orchestrates Antoinette's marriage and eventually Rochester's experiences with her sense of freedom at Granbois, begins to symbolize his lack of power as expected of Victorian man, where he sees Antoinette as an "alien". Rochester's decision to re-name Antoinette (as Bertha) becomes significant as he attempts to construct Antoinette to the Victorian and the Empire's masculine demands so as to establish a gendered, social "hegemony"4 between them. He finally manages to silence her by physically displacing her, denying her sexual pleasure and denying her identity. At this point in the novel, Rochester's role as colonizer and Antoinette's as colonized within the marriage are fully realized. Rochester, in the position of power, has successfully taken possession of Antoinette's wealth, property and identity. Antoinette is usurped from her own ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Victorian literature
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