Awakening, which might have been more aptly titled, The Sexual Awakening shocked the delicate and rigid sensibilities of Kate Chopin's contemporaries of 1899, although many of those contemporaries were slowly experiencing awakenings of their own. In telling the story of a married woman who begins to realize that she is an individual human being, rather than a nonentity made up of female roles assigned by a male-dominated society, Chopin immediately struck resonant chords and rocked an already unbalanced boat. Rarely is such extreme reaction achieved unless the subject matter has deep roots tapping into the unspoken truth, and in this situation, the truth being dealt with was that of female oppression.
Due to the oppressive lifestyles of women in the 1800s, and their inability to gain access to many professions, marriage was the only method through which many women at that time could insure their economic future. Love was not actually a necessary ingredient in the matchmaking. Because of this, the state of holy matrimony was often a loveless situation of male dominance and female submissiveness in which the wife was compelled to obey. For some women, it was a situation that was similar to a form of slavery.
In The Awakening, it is protagonist Edna Pontellier who awakens to a sense of longing - a sense that she is somehow incomplete and unfulfilled. As she becomes filled with self-awareness, she discovers that in satisfying her expected roles as obedient wife and doting mother, that the greater portion of her being has been left unfulfilled - her personal identity, her human being-ness.
In discovering her own passions, she moves with resolution away from the constricting roles of womanly sainthood demanded by society. Chopin therefore reveals both passion and desire in a member of society who was presumed to be devoid of both: a married woman. Chopin uses her gift of casual frankness in telling…… [Read More]
Awakenings - Dr. Oliver Sack Film
Based on a true story about Dr. Oliver Sack's work in the 1960s, Penny Marshall's film Awakenings elucidates the challenges of clinical experimental psychology. Dr. Sack's fictionalized character, Dr. Malcolm Sayer had worked as a laboratory researcher until he was forced to accept a new position treating catatonic patients at a Bronx mental institution. His relative inexperience in a clinical setting could be partly to blame for his somewhat idealistic approach to treating the patients under his care. In any case, Sayer attends a conference about new treatments for Parkinson's disease. When he hears about the revolutionary drug "L-Dopa," Sayer imagines it might offer a viable treatment for the catatonic patients on his ward, whose symptoms result from their having childhood encephalitis. After applying to the hospital medical board for approval, Sayer is permitted to test the drug on one patient. In addition to the administration of L-Dopa, at first at 200 mg doses and then later at 1000 mg doses, Sayer and his staff try to interact with the patients throughout the course of their treatment. Because Sayer is convinced that somewhere underneath their sleeping exteriors rests a human soul screaming to be released, he attempts to "awaken" his subjects by playing ball with them and encouraging them to dance. The experiment using L-Dopa is portrayed in the film as being rather informally, even haphazardly carried out. While Dr. Sacks might have used more formal methods of tracking patient progress and keeping detailed notes, in the film the clinician simply administered the drug and subjectively analyzed results. Moreover, Dr. Sayer increased the dosage without consulting the hospital medical board for approval, simply because results were not forthcoming.
Sayer's decision to up the dosage without approval from the medical board is understandable but unethical. The administration needs to be…… [Read More]
It is Edna who achieves both the awakening of the title, the awareness of how the social traditions imposed on her are stifling her and preventing her from expressing herself as she would wish, and also fails in that she cannot overcome these traditions and so chooses suicide rather than continue under such a repressive system. Chopin implies that there is a danger in awakening, in understanding the nature of the female role in society, and in trying to overcome that role. Chopin believes that some people possess the energy to keep up with their times and in effect to accept whatever may be their lot in life. These people do not need to examine reality or its meaning -- they indeed may not be able to do so, and instead they simply live. Madame Ratignolle is such a person, but Edna is not. Edna questions and examines, and the answers she finds do not allow her to continue as before, or to emulate her friend Madame Ratignolle and simply live. Edna corresponds to the artist, the artist who is always questioning, always examining, and in a way always discovering that the world does not live up to the ideal sought. The artist awakens, and the result is either the production of art or the death of the stifled artist.
Edna is a character caught between different poles of femaleness in her time, between the class of "mother-women" and the class of "artist-women."
On the one side stands Adele Ratignolle, the sensual Creole woman, a woman who adjusts to society by celebrating her procreative powers. On the other side is the less stable independence of liberated artists, who resist their culture's sociological limitations with their own kind of creative powers. The predicament in which Edna finds herself is evident in the opening passages -- she is first like the colorful parrot which hangs outside the door, warning others away, a woman in a cage who has not heeded this warning. The husband sees her after she has been in the sun and looks "at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage" (Chopin 4). He also believes that this piece of personal property…… [Read More]
The figures that, during the novel, have the greatest role in shaping Edna Pontellier's character, and therefore the figures from whom she must escape, are her husband and children. It is her role as wife and mother that is supposed to define her, as it did for much of recorded history. Women were thought to have very little value outside of the home, especially in the higher classes (when it was unnecessary for women to earn an income or engage in labor for any other reason). Thus, it was her interactions with and devotion to certain specified others that was supposed to define her. As she awakens to the reality of this construct, she reflects, "I would give up the unessential [for my children]; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself (Chopin, Chapter 16). Once she realizes that she truly as an identity of her own, she is unwilling to have it subsumed by anyone else.
Edna's foil throughout the novel is the unflappable Madame Ratignolle, who embodies society's ideal conception of the female identity. She is fully engaged with her children and her husband, and even spends her summer knitting winter garments for her coming baby. Though she and Edna Pontellier are the best of friends, they are also complete opposites in this regard. The novel refrains from judging either woman on the basis of the choices they make, however; though Edna is seen as somewhat selfish at times, it is tempered by the fact that she has never before been able to follow her own wishes. Just so, though Madame Ratignolle appears a touch too subservient in her role as the caretaker of her family, it is clear that this role makes her immensely happy and does not mark any lack of fulfillment on her part. Edna sees her as a representative of "women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to…… [Read More]
Awakening mother-women ( Adele Ratignolle) mother-Women ( Edna
Back to Sleep: Edna's Fate
Kate Chopin's The Awakening functions as a turn of the century tragedy regarding the domesticated lot of women in American society. Its protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is forced to forsake all of the wonder, delight, and sensations of life -- those that are intrinsically hers, anyway -- for an unyielding society in which her only virtue is that of raising children and her role as a mother. That her reaction to her fate is decidedly different from that of the other mothers portrayed within the novel only serves to underscore the author's point that women must sacrifice their essential selves (their aspirations, their desires, their link to crave the very things that animate their children and which they themselves craved as children) to become credible matriarchs due to the "external, repressive force" (Wolff 449) of society. Edna was unwilling to make that sacrifice, and therefore lost her life along with the passions that animated it, rendering this tale one of tragedy.
The author's central premise in this story, that women must distinguish themselves from their ardor for life in order to become accomplished mothers as society would have them, is evinced through an analysis of a wide range of female characters. None of them are able to combine true interests of their own, outside of their domestic duties, with the conventional responsibilities of a good mother. And yet there is no shortage of the sort of staid, tranquil domestics that exemplify the virtues of motherhood -- many of which Edna herself does not possess nor entirely desires to possess -- particularly when one considers the example of Adele Ratignolle, which the following quotation describing quintessential mother-women demonstrates.
It was easy to know them…They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels…one of them was the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm…Her name was Adele Ratignolle (Chopin).
This quotation defines society's conception of a virtuous mother. It is interesting to note that these virtues are akin…… [Read More]
ONE (a): The Awakening speaks to the fact that women were breaking away from the dependence they had on men (and the power men had over women as a cultural tradition). When Edna learns to swim, for example, she is extremely happy that she has control over something that propels her; Chopin uses Edna's emerging independence (and Edna's repulsion for the "…vague, tangled, chaotic…exceedingly disturbing" truth about her own life) as a metaphor for this breaking away from the role women played (Complete Works, 995). On page 1,000 Edna enters the water with no clothes and feels like a "new-born creature. Chopin's book broke literary tradition and created quite a stir because of the racy life and changes of Edna that led to her rejection of her wifely duties; the literary world, and the world of readers, were shocked because wives traditionally had obligations, and hence Chopin broke the mold. That male's traditional mold had been well established by DH Lawrence, James Joyce, and other novelists, and by portraying Edna as a woman who desires emotional closeness and intimacy -- and leaves the bonds of marriage to find those feminine experiences -- Chopin changed literary conventions.
TWO (b): Chopin uses Edna's husband as a point of reference vis-a-vis Edna's shocking changes from the dutiful wife she always was before. Edna's husband can't relate to his wife in any context other than as a possession he has the right to own and control. The cultural norm in the 19th century was for a husband to build his wife a home, to confine one's wife to that home and to expect his wife to always be there. Chopin also is impacted by her association with Adele Ratignolle, who is involved in a traditional marriage with husband and children but Adele listens to Edna and allows Edna to see the life that Edna really wants to pursue. Adele clearly understands Edna and supports Edna's desire to become an artist. Robert enters Edna's life and helps her have the courage to learn to swim (symbolic of her new-found independence). And Edna is very moved by the music that Mlle. Reisz plays; Edna responds to the music and…… [Read More]
Edna's behavior has been foreshadowed through a conversation about her past with Mrs. Ratignolle in which Edna tells Adele of her childhood and the actions she took and the choices she made. Edna tells Adele, "I was a little unthinking child in those days, just following a misleading impulse without question" (61). Edna has not come far from her childhood days of defying what society thought should be done with one's life. Though this statement is in reference to Edna running away from prayers in the Presbyterian Church, it applies to many other aspects of her life. During her stay at Grand Isle, Edna overcomes her fear and learns how to swim. By learning how to swim, Edna gained power that eventually made her grow "daring and reckless, overestimating her strength" (73). She lacked the opportunity to develop a strong sense of self before she married Leonce because she had simply gone from being a daughter to a wife with no intermediary stage of independence. Leonce unknowing opened a door for Edna when he ignored the seriousness of her relationship with Robert. Leonce treated Edna as though she were a "valuable piece of property" never spending too much time with her, interacting with her, and shaping her into what a wife was supposed to be. Leonce spent much time abroad working in his brokerage business and would rather spend time in a club than with his wife. Edna did not fit into Creole society and its arcane expectations of women. She was not one to cater to every whim and fancy of her children and husband, now was she one that felt as though she could run a large household. Though many people of the time found it appalling, Edna was not born to be the "angel of the house." She desires freedom from the life she's led and from society's expectations. Edna finds various forms of freedom including artistic, marital, monetary, sexual, and the freedom to choose how and when she will die.
Edna's story is one of tragedy in which she plays the tragic hero. She questioned the woman's function in society and provided alternative options for women of the time. Edna's flaw is her constant impulsivity and irresponsibility, foolishly thinking that her actions would bring her joy, but in fact, they brought her nothing but misery and despair. It is not as though was not…… [Read More]
Although he may be clumsy at times, he is in many ways just as much a victim of society as Edna. He was taught to expect certain things of a wife, and when Edna's temperament does not allow her to fulfill these functions, it is only natural for him to be confused. He tries to make her happy by giving her material things, and listening to the experts, like the doctor, who give him instructions as to how to make his wife feel content, but no one can give him good answers. Also, the world around him is filled with women like Adele Ratignolle, who seem to find the type of life Leonce gives Edna to be satisfactory.
I wanted to write a dramatic monologue telling the story of Leonce and Edna's marriage in the Awakening from Leonce's perspective. This does not mean that I believe that Edna was wrong to leave her husband when she was unhappy with her life, but that in a bad marriage, there is often no clear wrong and right, only two unhappy people who do not understand one another. In the Creole society of the Awakening, Kate Chopin seems to suggest that real and meaningful understanding between men and women is impossible. Edna does not find happiness with any of the men she knows in the novel. This also suggests it is not Leonce alone who is to blame for the marriage's failure. Both Edna and Leonce suffer in different ways because of the miscommunication and misunderstanding between men and women in the novel. Leonce suffers confusion and social embarrassment, and social approval is very important to him, and Edna suffers emotionally as well as loses her…… [Read More]
Awakening" and "A Doll's House"
The plight of women in the nineteenth century becomes the focus of Kate Chopin's short story, "The Awakening" and Henrik Ibsen's play, "A Doll's House." Moments of self-realization are the predominant themes in these stories, which result in enlightenment coupled with tragedy. This paper will examine Nora and Edna and how their situations push them toward the path of self-discovery.
Nora and Edna have much in common; they are married with children. Both women also undergo a transformation that leads them to make drastic changes in their lives in order to discover who they really are. Edna's transformation occurs over a considerable amount of time. She learns that she enjoys painting and through her relationships, she is also able to discover other parts of herself that create a separate identity from her husband and her children. In fact, she becomes quite liberated for a woman of her time. For example, Mademoiselle Reisz, an independent waoman, influenced her. In addition, she allows herself to fall in love with Robert. Edna also became very aware of who existence independent of anyone else. For instance, we're told, "She began to look with her own eyes; to see and apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to 'feed upon opinion' when her own soul had invited her" (Chopin 124). She was searching for meaning in her life beyond her family.
In contrast, Nora's realization takes place within a few minutes. While witnessing her husband's self-serving temper tantrum, she sees a stranger. She also realizes that as long as she remains Torvald's "doll wife," he would happily take care of her. Nora becomes aware that her husband does not take her seriously and becomes saddened by this thought. She tells him, "I have existed merely to perform tricks for you... It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life" (Ibsen 195). She also realizes and admits to him that she has never been happy, only "merry" (195). These truths direct her to "Stand quite alone if I am to understand myself and everything about me" (196). Nora realizes there is more to live that a "merry" existence in her doll's house.
Both women realize their…… [Read More]
Edna is 'betwixt and between,' neither able to wholly isolate herself from society, sexuality, and love like the reclusive Mademoiselle Reisz and unable to limit her intellectual and emotional capacity like Adele. In modern language one might say that Edna wants a balanced life, or wants to 'have it all,' but this is impossible given the Victorian morals of her day. To be sexually faithful renders her into an Adele-like role, but to rebel through infidelity simply subjugates her into another stereotypically feminine role, and denies her the social status of being a wife and mother. Yet Edna does not have either the talent or full inclination to be a hermit and slave to her art like Mademoiselle Reisz. Caught adrift socially, Edna flounders and literally as well as figuratively drowns in a sea of contradictions, in a society that demands women either abandon their sexuality to pursue their art, or subsume themselves sexually to a man, in marriage or as a mistress.… [Read More]
Kate Chopin's the Awakening is a tale of rebellion against social norms and the danger of venturing too far away from traditional conventions.
The protagonist, Edna, is married to Leonce Pontellier, a businessman from New Orleans. They have a beautiful house on Esplanade Street and are as one would say, respectable society. The novel opens on Grand Isle, just outside New Orleans, where the Pontelliers and their small children are renting a summer cottage from Madame Lebrun. Edna is a young and spirited woman from Kentucky who finds the life she is living a little too stifling for comfort. While Leonce, is quite the opposite. He apparently thrives on routine and formality, and finds little time away from his business dealings for pleasure.
Edna and Madame Lebrun's son Robert return from an afternoon of swimming and join Leonce on the porch. They try to recount a funny incident from the day, but Leonce fails to find the humor in the story and therefore is unable to share in the laughter. This first chapter sets the tone for the rest of the novel, in that it is obvious that Edna and Leonce are not particularly compatible companions. Edna appears to enjoy the beach, while Leonce seems irritated and out of his element. He prefers business to pleasure, and would rather play billiards at the hotel than spend the evening in the company of his wife and the other guests. He gives the impression that he could not care less what his wife does or with whom. When Edna retires for the night, Leonce still has not returned from the hotel. However, when he does return, he wakes her up to relate his evening to her, and when she shows little interest, he becomes angry and goes to check on their sons and then returns to the room to scold her for not being a good mother. Edna sits in the rocker outside and weeps, "She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her…… [Read More]
Edna Pontellier- a failure
Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" is a novel, which projects an entirely different perspective of women during the late nineteenth century. It is generally considered as a daring attempt to portray women as a self-reliant and independent being in a male dominated society. Through the character of Edna, the protagonist of the novel, the author tries to create a revolutionary change in the society. In the novel the author walks us through the different phases of Edna's life culminating in her committing suicide. Let us study the character of Edna and analyze if she was successful in achieving her objective of freedom and independence.
A view Edna's life as a failure from the perspective that she succumbs to the rejection from Robert and chooses to end up her life. The main feature of the novel is Edna's quest for freedom and liberation form the traditional outlook of society. Certainly Edna did achieve a certain degree of freedom by compromising on moral considerations. Edna's bold attempts at her freedom however do not reflect a success in her life. The very fact that she is not able to face society and stand up to her wishes indicates that her life was a failure. When it comes to analyzing how best the independence that she gained helped her with her life we are certainly faced with doubts. That Edna is not emotionally developed to handle a crisis situation, which results when Robert leaves her, puts the whole idea of independence to question. It only seems to attest the fact Edna isn't matured enough to handle life's exigencies. In fact she is kind of trapped between two extremes of life unsure as to where exactly she belongs.
We can only draw two conclusions from her suicide. Either Edna intended to show her rebellion attitude or she succumbed to social pressure. Either way her decision was a…… [Read More]
This was a strong realization and one that shifted Edna's focus from her marriage, husband and her children to herself. She started looking inwards to understand herself and to find her place in the world. Is she meant to be a mother and wife alone? Doesn't she have some needs that must be fulfilled? Shouldn't she be allowed to live a life on her own terms? These questions originated in her mind and disturbed her. But they also helped her become more aware of her needs and what she really wanted.
Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight -- perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman." (p. 16)
There are two other important female characters in the story namely Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Lebrun. They are women who are different from Edna but offer an insight into the ways women can think. Reisz is a woman that Edna doesn't get along with but admires all the same. She likes the fact that Reisz can play piano, enjoys music and understands art- all the things that Edna herself loved. But Reisz was a woman who could really be a straight shooter at times. She would cause great discomfort to Edna and make her feel unhappy. "Edna looked down at Mademoiselle Reisz and wondered how she could have listened to her venom so long. For some reason she felt depressed, almost unhappy." (p. 55)
Madame Lebrun on the other hand was a completely conventional woman. She was mother of the man Edna had fallen in love with and was the type of woman that doted on her children. But she was biased in her love for her children. While she would spoil Victor, she didn't pay as much attention to Robert.
The story presents an interesting tapestry of female characters that vary in their behavior and outlook. Edna is one the far end of the spectrum as she…… [Read More]
Men and Quality of Life in the Awakening
The Awakening is a story of one woman's struggle for self-identity. People have often remarked that Chopin defined for her time what it meant to be a woman. Edna, the main protagonist in the Awakening, gives us a glimpse of the inner struggle of women of that time, and how they struggled for independence in a time that fought against such a right. At a vacation resort near the Gulf, Edna begins her awakening and we begin to see that while Edna may blame men for her place in life, it seems that she may be the one creating her own madness, and the one that struggles with love the most.
In the beginning, Edna tries to be good. She tries to be like the traditional Creole woman, caring for her husband and children, and trying hard to be a suitable homemaker. But her husband is controlling and chauvinistic, characteristics that were quite typical of men during this time, and she finds it hard to live with. Although Edna is unhappy with the state of her marriage, she conceals her feelings for quite some time until she's unable to take it anymore. She decides to have a sexual relationship with another man to live out her dream, and to exercise her independence. When this fantasy falls apart so does her entire outlook on life because it was so attached to this man, as it was the man before him, her husband. This is when she climbs into the ocean for the only freedom she thinks is possible.
If we look at each of the men in this novel and their relations with Edna, we begin to see a pattern. Kate Chopin portrays the men in her novel as possessive, cowardly and self-serving. She uses the characters of Mr. Pontellier, Robert, Alcee and a few other men to illustrate what a man was…… [Read More]
Kate Chopin's remarkable novel "The Awakening," Edna contemplates her ideals about life, love and remaining true to one's self, despite the conformity that typically changes one's nature. Edna is one who has always kept her true identity hidden, seen only by herself; a notion that is explained by the narrator as "the dual life -- that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions." (p. 35) The struggle between these two existences is the central conflict of the novel, and one that is explained at length by the plot.
Edna was never close to any females, which prevented her from developing deep friendships, which typically would have kept her from shutting out her innermost feelings. Women tend to tell their best girlfriend things they would never tell their husbands or their lovers -- men do not typically understand women and their emotional depths. When Edna becomes friends with the Creole woman, Adele Ratignolle, for the first time she begins "to loosen a little the mantle of reserve that had always enveloped her." (p.35) This "mantle" as she calls it is a division she has built between what she does, and what she wants to do. Quite simply, she does what she feels is expected, because she didn't realize other women had the same impulses that she had. Edna desired to have a passionate love, and passionate sex, and at that time, sexual revelation for women was virtually unheard of.
But because of this new friendship she began with Adele, Edna also began to open herself up, and share some of her more intimate thoughts. More importantly, she begins to acknowledge them out loud to herself -- she admits to herself that she had hoped for something more in her marriage, but that she had merely grown "fond of her husband, realizing…that no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection." (p.47) Even her children, whom she is "fond…… [Read More]
great awakening was a religious revival that swept across America in the 1730s to 1740s that saw the restructuring of the society in general within America. For the very first time, this religious revival managed to bring the Native Americans and the blacks into the organized churches as opposed to the prior diverse ways of their worship to their various gods. It also brought the new colonialists into the church to share worship place with the Native Americans and blacks. This was also the very initial time that the religious revival led people to develop interest in education and hence universities like Princeton university and Brown University were established.
In the 1700s, the puritan church had lost its grip on the congregation and the society at large and the membership in the churches was on the decline. The puritan church had a lot of restrictive laws and measure like using the membership to the puritan churches as a measure of qualification to vote. This was however repealed in the new Massachusetts charter of 1691, a charter that also united Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and Maine into a singe royal colony of Massachusetts. This marked more freedom fro the congregation who had the space now to choose the church to belong to (John Winthrop, 2013).
The first group to bring forth this movement was the Presbyterian in Pennsylvania and also New Jersey lead by Rev. Tennet William who was an immigrant from Scotland, he emphasized on the evangelical conversions through heartfelt preaching. This religious zeal and enthusiasm was soon spread throughout the colonies even to the Puritans and the Baptist of New England.
Come 1740s, the clergymen concerned were already preaching the gospel through large revivals with the…… [Read More]
This suggests that it is an intellectual understanding of her friend's beatings and not a true emotional empathy that she is after. Though the scene is most definitely tragic, if it is approached with the same intellectual curiosity that the two adolescents bring to it can only be seen as an episode of horribly dark humor. The fact that Wendla can be so foolish as to desire an intellectual understanding of child abuse shows her complete lack of a true appreciation for the situation, and is thus a comic -- not necessarily humorous, but comical nonetheless -- situation.
The end of a play is also one way to determine if a particular work is a comedy or a tragedy. The fact that Moritz and Wendla are both unnecessarily dead at the end of the play at first seems to suggest a tragedy, as does Melchior's expulsion. When the characters end up worse than they were at the start of the action, it usually indicates a tragedy. But this is not actually where Spring Awakening leaves off. Instead, Melchior returns to his village -- or at least its graveyard -- and encounters Moritz and the masked Man. This scene is not only highly intellectual, as noted above, but Melchior's final observation before walking away into the night and his future is that perhaps when he is older Moritz will "be closer to me again than all the people who share my life" (Wedekind 58). Melchior has grown and become better for the incidents in the play, and this outcome suggest a more typical comedy than a tragedy.
Of course, viewing the ending from Moritz's perspective yields a different result, and indeed it would be possible to make an equally convincing argument that Spring Awakening is an inescapable tragedy. But this is the nature…… [Read More]
As a poet, Wright becomes like a surrogate for the man, or a medium who channels the man's spirit: "And then they [the lynchers] had me, stripped me, battering my teeth / into my throat till I swallowed my own blood."
This is a poetic awakening for Wright, even though it is painful. By entering the "Inferno" of the woods, Wright finds his calling. He finds it through the guidance of apprehending the dead man, the dead man who becomes his guide through the underworld that is life for a black man in America during the era when Wright lived and for many years afterwards. Wright calls it a 'baptism' by gasoline, and by the end of the poem, Wright has fully 'become' the dead man: "Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in / yellow surprise at the sun...."
According to Orlando Patterson's book Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, to be a slave is to be in a state of social death. A slave has no identity, no name or role other than being owned by his master. Although Wright chronicles a period long after slavery, lynching confirms African-American's place as existing in limbo, in a kind of social death. No one will avenge the crime. Additionally, the man is never formally tried for rape, instead the community has free reign to do what it wants to this man, regardless of his rights as a human being. Wright realizes this in a cruel shock, so he resolves, almost against his will like a prophet having a forced calling from God, that he must speak for the man. He sees that no liberation from racism has occurred in American society, and while once upon a time a "master's death was the occasion for the release of the slave," this is no longer the case -- a slave is forever bound because of the way that blackness and slavery is viewed as permanently intertwined in society (Patterson 227).
In the poem, Wright makes it clear that he has witnessed a profound trauma, a trauma that has gripped his soul. However, this trauma is…… [Read More]
Wolves: The sexual awakening of Little Red
"The Company of Wolves" by Angela Carter depicts the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood as a sexual awakening for the young woman, Little Red. [THESIS]. This can be seen in how the wolf is sexualized and depicted as a vibrant, attractive man in the eyes of Little Red
"He strips off his shirt. His skin is the color and texture of vellum. A crisp strip of hair runs down his belly, his nipples are ripe and dark as poison fruit but he's so thin you could count the ribs under his skin if only he'd give you the time…His genitals, huge. Ah! Huge!" (Carter 317). The story retains the general structure of the fairy tale until the end, but the descriptions of Little Red and the wolf give the story an additional sexual relevance.
For example, in the above-cited quotation, the wolf's true, sexual nature and carnivorous desire is revealed when he exposes himself to grandmother. The man/wolf is hairy and mature as a man yet he also has a strangely feminine side: "his nipples are ripe and dark as poison fruit" (Carter 317) His nipples are like poison fruit, which Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, causing the fall of man. The wolf is the tempter and offers the fruit of knowledge of sexuality, but the fact that his nipples are so prominent suggests a kind of maternal identity despite the fact that his genitals are "huge."
Later, the sexuality of the wolf will become even more confused as he takes on the persona of grandmother, wearing her clothing and speaking in her voice. As obviously male as the wolf may be because of the cartoonish size of his genitals and his nakedness, he embodies both the female and male principles of sexual identity. However, he will 'deflower' Little Red with death, as the girl comes to understand that her red cloak is just as red as the blood she will spill, symbolically losing her life and her virginity at the same time.
Carter clearly portrays sexual initiation as a death to female autonomy, and…… [Read More]
Nora's Awakening #2
A Doll's House by Henrick Ibsen is a 1879 play that provides insight into the life of a women during the 19th century. While the play takes place over a short period time, it is during this time that Nora Helmer realizes that she is unhappy, and she needs to break away from her husband. Nora feels as though she was never given the opportunity to live the life she wanted, and after seeing what her husband, Torvald, thinks of Krogstad, a man who has committed the same crimes Nora has in order to save Torvald, she can no longer keep her thoughts to herself and resolves to stop being objectified by all the men in her life. In the play, the turning point comes in Act III when Nora compares herself to a doll and explains how she has always been treated as an object and subsequently blames both her father and her husband for not being given the opportunity to make more of herself.
One of the reason's the definitive moment in the play occurs when Nora compares herself to a doll is because it gives Nora is finally able to speak up for herself. In Act III, Nora gets into an argument with Torvald and is shocked to realize that for the first time since they were married eight years ago, they are having an actual conversation, as opposed to the casual pleasantries they have exchanged for years. In Nora's speech, not only does Nora explain how she has been objectified, but she also provides an explanation for the play's title. Nora explains,
When I was at home with Papa he told me his opinion about everything, and so I…… [Read More]