Female Victims Of Social Forces English Literature Essay

“ The bird that would surge above the degree field of tradition and bias must hold strong wings. ” ( 725 ) .

This is the advice that Mademoiselle Reisz gives to Edna Pontellier after Edna has confessed her love for Robert Lebrun in Kate Chopin ‘s The Awakening. Although Edna admits to her other lover, Alcee Arobin, that she merely “ half comprehend [ s ] her, ” ( 725 ) the reader understands the true and important significance of Mademoiselle Reisz ‘s advice ; if Edna, symbolized by the bird, is determined to interrupt away from the coop of outlooks and criterions that society has placed upon her for being a adult female and a female parent, a quandary faced by many females of the 19th century, she must hold strength. However, as brave, as dare, and every bit defiant as she is, society proves to be excessively strong. As Edna stands on the shore in the concluding scene of the novel, she witnesses “ a bird with a broken wingaˆ¦beating the air above, staggering, flap, circling disabled down, down to the H2O ” ( 749 ) . Similar to the bird, which is wounded and weak and has fallen, Edna commits self-destruction, immersing into the H2O as a last and concluding effort to get away the social restraints placed upon her. Maggie Johnson in Stephen Crane ‘s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets portions the same tragic stoping. As Maggie efforts to obtain everything that Edna urgently desires to cast in order to get away the rough environment and life of the New York Bowery slums, she is stopped by the restrictions placed upon her by society for being a “ miss of the streets, ” and resorts to submerging herself in a river. By looking at Chopin ‘s The Awakening and Crane ‘s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, we can see how two contrasting female figures struggle to liberate themselves from predominating societal forces, finally detecting that the lone manner to truly exceed a life full of barriers is through decease.

In her essay, “ The Female Artist in Kate Chopin ‘s The Awakening: Birth and Creativity, ” Carole Stone asserts that, “ in Chopin ‘s epoch, childbearing was considered a adult female ‘s noblest act ” ( par. 2 ) and that Chopin ‘s novel is “ extremist in its intervention of maternity because it inquiries the premises that childbearing and kid attention are a adult female ‘s chief career, and that maternity gives pleasance to all adult females ” ( par. 1 ) . In The Awakening, Edna Pontellier rejects her duties as female parent ; she is non considered a “ mother-woman, ” as she “ fail [ s ] in her responsibility toward [ her ] kids ” ( Chopin 666 ) . Edna holds a controversial perceptual experience of maternity as she considers her kids to be “ similar adversaries who had overcome her ; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the psyche ‘s bondage for the remainder of her yearss ” and struggles to liberate herself from their and her hubby ‘s ownership ( 749 ) . She perceives her maternity as a concept created by society to back up society ‘s patriarchal construction ; social conventions, in respects to pregnancy, do non let for female personal growing and liberty but demand selflessness to the household. This can be seen when her hubby, Leonce Pontellier, scolds Edna for painting instead than taking attention of the household. He states, “ It seems to me the extreme folly for a adult female at the caput of a family, and the female parent of kids, to pass in an altelier yearss which would be better employed contriving for the comfort of her household ” ( accent added, 704 ) . Mentioning to Edna ‘s callback of her parturition labour, Stone states that “ by shattering the semblance that giving birth is a glorious experience, Chopin attacks the patriarchal construction which denies adult females control of their organic structures ” ( par. 2 ) . Stone ‘s premiss can be extended ; Chopin farther attacks patriarchal society by shattering the semblance that child care itself is a glorious experience, as the “ occupation ” is transferred onto the list of duties of the quadroons.

We see Edna ‘s defeat with motherly outlooks set by society as she breaks out in cryings after her hubby wakes her from slumber to allow her cognize that Raoul, their boy, has a high febrility and needs to be looked after. The storyteller informs the reader that Mr. Pontellier “ reproached his married woman with her inattention ” and “ her accustomed disregard of the kids ” ( Chopin 665 ) and reveals society ‘s ways of thought and its gender conventions through the undermentioned statement: “ If it was non a female parent ‘s topographic point to look after kids, whose on Earth was it? [ Mr. Pontellier ] had his custodies full with his securities firm concern. He could non be in two topographic points at one time ; doing a life for his household on the street, and remaining at place to see that no injury bechance them ” ( 665 ) . However, in such a patriarchal society, even if Mr. Pontellier did non hold “ his custodies full, ” the duty of looking after the kids would still be positioned on the female figure. The storyteller farther constructs the impression of “ perfect adult females ” as “ adult females who idolized their kids, worshiped their hubbies, and esteemed it a holy privilege to obliterate themselves as persons and turn wings as ministering angels ” and embodies it within Adele Ratignolle, whose matrimony and motherly function is contrasted with Edna ‘s relationship with her hubby and her maternity. ( 667 ) . Mrs. Ratignolle is a female parent of three kids, “ imploring to believe of a 4th one ” ( 667 ) and her matrimony with Mr. Ratignolle is the perfect “ merger of two human existences ” ( 704 ) .

In contrast to Edna who acknowledges her “ inward life which inquiries ” and refuses to let her “ outward being ” to conform to society ‘s outlooks of female parents, who non merely give up their lives but besides their egos to their kids, Maggie Johnson in Crane ‘s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets attempts to take on the caretaker function in order to travel up in the societal ladder, and interrupt free from the hereafter that her opprobrious and barbarous female parent and environment offer her ( Chopin 671 ) . When readers are foremost introduced to Maggie, she is seen caring, though non tenderly, for her younger brother, Tommie. The storyteller states, “ A little ragged miss dragged a ruddy, bellowing baby along the crowded ways ” ( Crane 6 ) . Furthermore, she attempts to take on the female parent function after their female parent, Mary, had “ grasp [ erectile dysfunction ] [ Jimmie ] by the cervix and shoulder ” and “ dragged him to an unhallowed sink, and, soaking a shred in H2O, began to scour his lacerated face with it, ” in which Jimmie responds with a shriek of hurting ( 7-8 ) . Maggie asks him, “ are yehs hurted much, Jimmie? ” and “ will I wash deh blood? ” ( 8 ) . After he replies “ no ” to each inquiry, she begins to inquire Jimmie if she can make something else for him, but he interrupts her with a menace to the person that beat him up ( 9 ) . These motherly duties are forced upon Maggie as her female parent ‘s alcohol addiction has rendered her incapable of carry throughing her responsibilities. However, Maggie ‘s ain inability to carry through the motherly function and as a consequence move up in society is foreshadowed as Tommie, who she is depicted as responsible for the attention of at the beginning of the novel, dies at a immature age and as Maggie merely breaks a home base while seeking to rinse dishes.

Although Stone ‘s statement is basically based upon the thought that Edna ‘s overall battle for a self-governed life against society and its outlooks is embodied by birth ( both child birth and self-rebirth through art ) and by extension the relationship between female parent and her kids, Edna ‘s refusal to follow the “ mother-woman ” individuality is merely one manner in which she denounces societal conventions. In his article, “ Kate Chopin ‘s The Awakening: A Partial Dissent, ” George M. Spangler asserts that Edna ‘s “ rebellion against conventional duties reaches its first flood tide when she decides to set up a place apart from her hubby ” ( 251 ) . The storyteller states that:

The Pontelliers possessed a really charming place on Esplanade Street in New Orleans. It was a big, dual bungalow, with a board forepart gallery, whose unit of ammunition, fluted columns supported the sloping roof. The house was painted a eye-popping white ; the outside shutters or louvered windows, were green. In the pace, which was kept conscientiously orderly, were flowers and workss of every description which flourish in South Louisiana. Within doors the assignments were perfect after the conventional type. The softest rugs and carpets covered the floors ; rich and tasteful curtains hug at doors and Windowss. There were pictures selected with judgement and favoritism upon the walls. The cut glass, the Ag, the heavy damask which daily appeared upon the tabular array were the enviousness of many adult females whose hubbies were less generous than Mr. Pontellier. ( Chopin 699 )

However, as excessive and epicurean the abode is, Edna chooses to travel to a “ pigeon ” house, “ a small four-room house around the corner ” that “ looks so cosy, so inviting and reposeful ” ( 722 ) . She tells Mademoiselle Reisz that she desires to travel because she is tired of looking after Mr. Pontellier ‘s house. She states, “ It ne’er seemed like mine anyway- like place. It ‘s excessively much problem. I have to maintain excessively many retainers. I am tired bothering with them ” ( 722 ) . Furthermore, Edna desires freedom and independency as she wants to supply for herself ; she tells Mademoiselle Reiz, “ the house, the money that provides for it, are non mine ” ( 722 ) . By gaining money through selling her pictures and take parting in the male ‘s activity of chancing in Equus caballus races, she is able to dispute societal codifications and live on her ain in the pigeon house.

Edna ‘s indifference to appearances farther demonstrates her rejections of social conventions. When she chooses to be absent from Mr. Pontellier ‘s place on her response twenty-four hours, Mr. Pontellier scolds her for non detecting “ lupus erythematosuss convenances ” or “ the societal conventions ” ( 700 ) . He tells Edna that “ it ‘s merely such looking trifles that we ‘ve got to take earnestly, such things count ” ( 700 ) . Furthermore, her rejection of public visual aspects can be seen when she tells Leonce, “ Do n’t allow us acquire anything new ; you are excessively excessive ” as he looks for new fixtures for their library. Edna ‘s attitudes towards outward visual aspects and her house are significantly contrasted with that of Maggie ‘s. In comparing to Edna, who dislikes her showily ornamented and inordinate house, Maggie desires to hold one.

Maggie lives in the destitute Bowery vicinity within the close-living tenements and “ glooming territory ” ( Crane 56 ) in New York. Her tenement is filled with “ broken door-panels ” ( 12 ) , “ gruesome room accesss ” ( 6, 7, 11, 25, 29 ) , and “ cold, glooming halls ” ( 7 ) , which is straight contrasted with Edna ‘s broad and “ covetous ” house ( Chopin 699 ) . The storyteller describes the house through Maggie ‘s ideas:

Maggie contemplated the dark, dust-stained walled, and the light and rough furniture of her place. A clock, in a splintered and battered oblong box of stained wood, she all of a sudden regarded as an abomination. She noted that it ticket gratingly. The about vanished flowers in the carpet-pattern, she conceived to be freshly horrid. Some swoon efforts she had made with bluish thread, to refresh the visual aspect of a dingy drape, she now saw to be hapless. ( Crane 20 )

Aligned with society ‘s and Mr. Pontellier ‘s values in the physical and mercenary, Maggie is excessively concerned with visual aspects ; this is apparent by the fact that she attempted to “ refresh the visual aspect ” of the drape with a “ bluish thread ” ( 20 ) . Furthermore, as she anticipated Pete ‘s return to her house, “ she spent some of her hebdomad ‘s wage in the purchase of floral cretonne for a lambrequin ” ( 21 ) . Her concern for visual aspect is portrayed through her actions: “ She studied [ the lambrequin ] with painful anxiousness from different points in the room. She wanted it to look good on Sunday dark when, possibly, Jimmie ‘s friend would come ” ( 21 ) . In comparing to Edna, who sells her pictures and attends races in order to populate independently and diverge from the societal restraints of matrimony, Maggie becomes employed “ in an constitution where they made neckbands and turnups, ” ( 17 ) in order to reject the alternate business of immature adult females in the New York slums: harlotry. Her brother tells her, “ Mag, I ‘ll state yeh Dis! See? Yeh ‘ve edder got teh travel teh snake pit or travel teh work! ” ( 17 ) . Maggie takes a occupation, because she is “ diff’ent ” from the adult females of the Bowery ; she desires to travel up in society ( 34 ) .

In his article, “ Romantic Imagination in Kate Chopin ‘s The Awakening ” Donald A. Ringe states that “ the work forces to whom [ Edna ] is attracted to before her matrimony are either such as might inflame a vernal imaginativeness ( the horse officer and the tragedian ) , or the sort she is told she must non covet ( the immature adult male who is engaged to the lady on a adjacent plantation ) . Forbidden fruit seems to appeal to her most ” ( 586 ) . In conformity with Ringe ‘s statements, Edna ‘s matrimony with Leonce Pontellier originated out of her “ vernal imaginativeness ” and the construct of “ out fruit ” ( Ringe 586 ) . The storyteller of The Awakening even states that “ [ Edna ‘s ] matrimony with Leonce Pontellier was strictly an accident ” and resulted from her secret passion for him, his absolute devotedness towards her, and the “ violent resistance of her male parent and her sister Margaret to her matrimony with a Catholic ” ( Chopin 674-675 ) . Edna ‘s pick to get married Mr. Pontellier partially because her household opposed it, exemplifies another manner in which Edna resists authorization and criterions of society. Ringe farther applies his theories to the other work forces of Edna ‘s life, determining that “ one suspects that the entreaty of Alcee Arobin and of Robert Lebrun derives from the fact that she knows she should non go involved with them. The consequence is that she either ends up as a possession- and both Leonce and Alcee treat her as one- or she is herself overwhelmed with the desire to possess another. Both relationships are, of class, exhaustively destructive ” ( 586 ) .

The cause of the devastation of the Pontellier matrimony is signaled within Mr. Pontellier ‘s name: Leonce. The name brings about images of “ king of beastss ” and by extension words associated with the animate being, such as “ male monarch, ” “ power, ” and “ authorization, ” which instantly foreshadows his character and function in the matrimony. Mr. Pontellier is an highly affluent and well-thought-of man of affairs, who frequently leaves his household and place for concern. Even when he is non off, nevertheless, he still remains distant from his married woman and two kids, as portrayed at the beginning of the novel when the Pontellier household is on holiday in the Grand Isle. Mr. Pontellier sits by himself on a wicker chair at “ his ain bungalow ” , while we witness Robert Lebrun and Edna nearing together ( 661-662 ) . Edna ‘s dissatisfaction with her matrimony and life besides arises out of the fact that her hubby ‘s and her relationship lacks communicating and passion. For case, after geting to the bungalow, Edna, “ mutely reached out to [ her hubby ] , and he, understanding, took the rings from his waistcoat pocket and dropped them into her unfastened thenar ” ( 662 ) . Furthermore, as she and Robert relay a narrative of an incident that occurred while in the H2O, Mr. Pontellier “ yawned and stretched himself, ” rose and left to chance at Klein ‘s ( 663 ) .

Leonce ‘s deficiency of communicating and passion with his married woman is contrasted with Robert Lebrun and Edna ‘s relationship as “ they chatted endlessly: about the things around them ; their amusing escapade out in the wateraˆ¦ . ; about the air current, the trees, the people who had gone to the Cheniere ; about the kids playing croquet under the oaks, and the Farival twins ” ( 663 ) . Robert Lebrun is farther contrasted with Mr. Pontellier as “ he amused himself with the small Pontellier kids, who were really affectionate him, ” whereas Mr. Pontellier simply promised but forgot “ to convey [ his kids ] back bonbons and peanuts ” ( 663-664 ) . However, even though Robert and Edna profess their love for each other in private and Edna claims that she is her ain ownership and can give herself as she pleases, Robert leaves Edna, recognizing that she truly is “ non free ” and that she belongs to Leonce Pontellier ( 744-745 ) . He leaves her because he loves her, declining to defile her name and interrupt societal criterions ( 745 ) . Although Edna experiences an waking up as she bit by bit discovers her inward ego and learns how to swim out into the ocean, she experiences another waking up when she finds and reads the missive left by Robert ; she awakens to the fact that the societal conventions regulating adult females are ineluctable.

Similar to Edna, who enters finally destructive relationships in which she rejects the societal criterion of fidelity within matrimony, Maggie enters a harmful relationship with Pete in hopes of get awaying slum life through matrimony. In her eyes, Pete is the “ the boyfriend ideal of a adult male, ” an “ blue individual ” of wealth and civilization ( 19 ) . She believes that he has “ great amounts of money to pass ” and that “ his closet [ is ] prodigiously expensive ” ( 21 ) . Whereas Edna denies the male authorization that her male parent, the Colonel, speaks of when he asserts that, “ authorization, coercion are what is needed ” and that the “ lone manner to pull off a married woman ” is by “ set [ ting ] your pes down good and difficult ( Chopin 716 ) , Maggie thirstily and volitionally accepts male authorization as the storyteller states that Maggie believed that Pete had “ a right sense of his personal high quality ” ( Crane 18 ) . She saw him as “ a knight ” , anticipating him to deliver her from the slums ( 20 ) . In Ringe ‘s footings, Pete “ inflame [ vitamin D ] a vernal imaginativeness ” ( Ringe 586 ) by capturing and affecting her, conveying her to topographic points of “ aureate glister ” and “ amusement of many chromaticities and many tunes ” ( Crane 21 ) , transfusing within Maggie, the belief that “ the hapless and virtuous finally surmounted the wealthy and the wicked ” ( 28 ) . After Mary prohibits Maggie from populating within her house and tells her to “ travel teh snake pit ” ( 32 ) when she finds out about the relationship between Maggie and Pete, Maggie becomes wholly dependent on her “ leonine Pete ” ( 47 ) , her “ king of beasts of august features ” ( 4 ) . In contrast to Edna, she accepts and even desires the submissive function that patriarchal society has defined for adult females. The storyteller states, “ her life was Pete ‘s and she considered him worthy of the charge. She would be disturbed by no peculiar apprehensivenesss, so long as Pete adored her as he now said he did ” ( 41 ) .

Pete ‘s rejection of Maggie for Nellie, a adult female of “ glare and audaciousness, ” is what finally leads Maggie to her death. His actions illustrate his belief that Maggie, Nellie, and all adult females are objects of sexual desire. This is even apparent in Pete ‘s first “ note ” of Maggie, as he merely remarks upon her physical visual aspect. He states, “ Say, Mag, I ‘m stuck on yer form. It ‘s outa sight ” ( 19 ) . In his article, “ Stephen Crane ‘s ‘Maggie ‘ and the Modern Soul, ” Keith Gandal states that “ there was for the in-between category a hierarchy of virtuousnesss, and a adult female ‘s celibacy, even a hapless adult female ‘s, was extremely fetishized ” ( 762 ) . Maggie does non recognize that Pete is of the type of environment that she is seeking to get away ; he embodies the force and unfeelingness found in the slums. As Pete leaves her, she believes that all of her opportunities at life leave besides. Maggie ‘s romantic vision of being wedded to a adult male of a higher-class is crushed and “ her psyche [ can ] ne’er smiling once more ” ( 51 ) .

Gandal besides states that “ the ultimate wickedness in slum literature was a adult female ‘s loss of pureness ” ( 762 ) . It was Maggie ‘s loss of pureness and the publicized sexual relationship with Pete by Jimmie and his female parent that resulted in her being ostracized from slum society. After Pete leaves her, she attempts to return to the place that casted her out, but is merely welcomed by her cruel female parent, disgusted by her girl ‘s dross, who declares “ Dere she standsaˆ¦Dere she stands! Lookut her! Ain ‘ she a dindy? An ‘ she was so good as to come place teh her mudder, she was! Ain ‘ she a beaut ‘ ? Ain ‘ she a dindy? Fer Gawd ‘s interest ” ( 51 ) ! After her female parent ‘s proclamation to the tenement neighbours, Maggie experiences an rousing similar to Edna. The storyteller states, “ The mockery calls ended in another explosion of shrill laughter. The miss seemed to rouse ” ( 51 ) . Like Edna, she comes to recognize that society does non let motion. Rejected both by the slum society and Pete, she is faced with the world that she will ne’er get married, her merely means to get away, and resorts to harlotry and so suicide.

Kate Chopin ‘s The Awakening and Stephen Crane ‘s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets illustrate the ineluctable, destructive forces of society. Maggie, a hapless miss of the streets, efforts to interrupt free from the slum-life and travel up the societal ladder, but fails to make so because of the tight restraints of society that do non let for aberrances. Maggie has fallen, losing her virginity, and the lone manner for her to acquire salvation is through “ matrimony or self-destruction ” ( Randal 763 ) . Forsakened by Pete and the possibility of matrimony, she turns to suicide, submerging herself in a river. In comparing, Edna Pontellier, a adult female married to an highly affluent adult male, suffers from the same societal restraints which weigh her down and seek to smother her. For Edna, the force per unit areas of society and its inescapability finally consequences in her decease as she drowns herself in the sea.

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