The Veil of Servitude, a Comparative Analysis of the Treatment of Woman in Victorian Age Literature

By Trudy A. Martinez

The beliefs of Evangelicals and the treatment of women in the Victorian Age echo the teachings of the Old Testament in the Holy Bible. In both belief and treatment, woman is an object preferred for her outer beauty or nurtured or cultivated as a servant for the pleasure or the benefit of man. For instance when a Victorian woman eventually marries to man, she is expected to become an extension of him in all respects: to become, in a sense, “bone of his bone” and “flesh of his flesh”. In principle, woman is envisioned “. . . to be [man’s] second self” (Bronte 281). Consequently, woman is suppressed: she loses her identity; man becomes her master; and her life evolves around a duty: “. . . to honour and obey him . . .” (Butler 87).

The pledge, “to honour and obey”, emerges as a villain and brings forth what appears as Butler’s purpose: exposing the reality of woman’s position in societal beliefs and customs. In The Way of All Flesh, as in the Victorian Age, the belief is woman’s “. . . first obedience to God lay in obedience to [her husband]”. Butler displays this concept through Theobald. For example, if Christiana does not hold true to her promise “. . . to honour and obey [Theobald]. . .” Theobald needs only to “. . . buy Milton’s prose works and read his pamphlet on divorce” and then follow through by getting a divorce (Butler 87-88). Divorce is a means of escape for man if woman is foolish enough to reject the male dominance imposed.

The peril of divorce forces the Victorian woman to comply with the wishes of her spouse for woman has no place within the society of man: she is hopelessly imprisoned; this aspect of woman’s existence is pictorially portrayed by Alfred Tennyson in his poem, Mariana. In the poem, Mariana’s feelings rightfully correspond with wasteland imagery:

“The broken sheds look sad and strange:

Uplifted was the clinking latch;

Weeded and worn the ancient thatch

Upon the lonely moated grange” (396).

Tennyson pictures Mariana dissipating in loneliness while she continually anticipates the return of her lover. Consequently, Mariana is seen as sexually frustrated with no purpose in life other than to wait for him. Her statement,

“. . . ‘my life is dreary,

He cometh not,’ . . .

. . . ‘I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead!’’(396),

alludes to her being alone and isolated in a dream-like state with no hope of being free from the prison-like atmosphere that is created (396). Mariana, herself, sees no escape from her loneliness; this is evidenced through the parallel action of her rejection of life at both the beginning and end of the poem. Only Mariana’s final weeping, “. . . ‘I am aweary, aweary’” and her plea, “. . . Oh God, that I were dead.’”, displays a perception of an unyielding hope (398).

An unyielding hope is all Tennyson’s characterization of Mariana shares with the characterization of Jane in Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre. Instead of just an unyielding hope of escape through death, Bronte offers a suggestive alternative that leans toward equality of the sexes; it is driven by the love and the passion of Jane and Rochester. Even though the story interestingly compels ideals similar to Tennyson’s, it goes beyond Tennyson’s scope by introducing a doctrine which very nearly represents the New Testament book, I Corinthians 6 verse 3. In this view, “. . . the husband [is to] render unto the wife due benevolence; and likewise also the wife unto the husband.” This verse stings with equality. And consequently, so does Jane Eyre when she says to Rochester: “it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both . . . [of us] . . . stood at God’s feet, equal as we are!”(281).

Equality is an issue that gains importance with Jane. It is the requisite that stimulates benevolence. Rochester accepts Jane’s desire for congruity because she stands firm in her ideals. She says, “. . . no net ensnares me: I am free . . . with an independent will . . . “(Bronte 282). But the same is not true for other women nor is equality accepted within society.

Bertha (a symbol of a married Victorian woman) reveals the degree of damage a lack of equality places upon women and even the need for love and happiness. Justifiably and symbolically Bertha rips her bridal veil in half. The ripping of the veil is not done out of jealousy. Instead, the ripping of the veil is a means of exposing the servitude, defilement, and deterioration of woman. As a hideous creation, Bertha, “. . . turned to the mirror . . .” a “reflection” of mood and feeling gives emphasis to the vampire-like quality of the Victorian marriage practice and the degradation of woman as a whole. The ripping of the “. . . princely [extravagant] . . .” bridal veil suggests a need for the separation of materialism from the marriage (Bronte 308). Hence, this seems justifiably reasonable, for after all, “. . . it was only the [extravagant] veil that was harmed” (Bronte 312).

For what other reason do Bertha’s violent actions leave Jane and her simple handmade veil untouched? The answer appears to be because Jane and her simple veil represent woman’s independent choice and the need for a necessary change in marriage creeds. Therefore, Bertha’s action of renting her own veil merely symbolizes and paves the way for the introduction of such a new marriage creed that will lift the veil of servitude from woman.

The lifting of the veil of servitude not only encompasses an equal and deep inspiring love and passion between both man and woman but also engages both man and woman’s attention towards a love for God. Conceivably then, Bertha may be seen as giving her life for a new creed for all women. Bronte provides an illusion that justifies this impression when she describes the room Mr. Mason occupies as he lay injured: “. . . the shadows darken . . . [then], under the hangings of the vast old [marriage] bed . . . rose an ebon crucifix and a dying Christ” (Bronte 237). The black crucifix exemplifies the suffering that evolves through a loveless marriage. Sequentially, death is its unison.

The marriage between Bertha and Rochester is an arrangement provided for by family. Hence, Bertha’s violent and seemingly revengeful attack upon Mr. Mason, her brother, gives reason whereby understanding is gained. Bertha like Mariana is hopelessly imprisoned (restrained even), wishing for death. How else is she to react to her grueling circumstance? Two such souls as Bertha and Rochester can never hope to achieve equality in marriage or share a sense of love and passion. They do not join in marriage as described in I Corinthians 6:3. Instead, their marriage is orchestrated by others for the sake of “the root of all evil”, money.

Money and the prestige that comes along with it are the forces Dickens perceives to have driven man down a path of unhappiness and guilt. Dickens presents Pip as a stereotypical male of society who is being torn between choice and class separation rules.

Conversely, woman is not typically given a choice. Most women are forced to accept their lot in life. Certainly, no one can blame Blanche Ingram for attempting to improve her rank in life by seeking to marry Rochester. It is true, money and material gain is important to her. All the same, she knows no better. In other words, she is the product of a male dominated society. Consequently, she does what is expected of her.

However, Dickens clearly demonstrates the male in the Victorian society has a choice. For instance, Pip knows what his choices are: either he can choose to pursue a woman with inner beauty like Biddy from the lower class level or one whose beauty is only skin deep like Estella from the upper class level. Accordingly, once Pip knows he has great expectations, his choice to pursue Estella for her material outer beauty and schooled charm predominates. In the eye of Dickens, the lower class woman is more loving and deserving whereas, the upper class woman is revengeful and even insensitive. Class separation places emphasis on the contrasts between Biddy and Estella. Estella acknowledges Pip’s change of heart and his choice when she says, “Since your change of fortune and prospects, you have changed your companions’ . . . ‘And necessarily,’ . . . ‘what was fit company for you once, would be quiet unfit for you now’”(Dickens 258). Still, Pip knew he has made an error in judgment because his personal guilt grows out of proportion, but he is unable to resist temptation. Consequently, Pip’s guilt continually reflects back to him when he thinks of home.

Yet, Estella feels no guilt or remorse: she is trained to be revengeful; she does not view her actions as such nor does she remember the cruel manner in which she treats Pip. When Pip questions her, Estella says, “I don’t remember”.

Pip reveals his astonishment when he replies, “Not remember that you made me cry?” Estella’s insensitivity “. . . made (Pip) cry again inwardly – and (Pip acknowledged to himself) that [this was] the sharpest crying of all” (Dickens 258-259).

Biddy’s tear, however, reflects an inward sorrow for Pip. Of course Pip has to admit, “If [he] could have settled down . . . [Biddy] and [he] and Joe would have wanted nothing . . . “(Dickens 155). Consequently, as Dickens emphasizes through Pip’s expectations, class separation is what separates man from the culmination of a love and happiness.

Bronte rejects the idea of separation of class as a reason where love is concerned. Therefore, in her novel, Jane comes to love Mr. Rochester and he likewise grows to love her. She is plain in looks and dress, like Biddy, so it is evident that her outer beauty is not what attracts Rochester to her. Naturally, each stands their own grounds at first. Then slowly they relinquish unto the other a benevolence that grows into passion and “. . . called [for] a paradise of union . . . “(Bronte 284). Hence, the Victorian Society perceives the story of Jane Eyre as shocking. Man and woman alike object to the passionate elements the novel presents. The outward show of passion (by woman) suggests a change in society, encompassing the lives of both man and woman. Was the male dominating Victorian society unnerved and checked by an arousing fear? Or was society’s reaction to the novel and outward manifestation of guilt?

A manifestation of guilt is not reflected in The Way of All Flesh. Instead of a manifestation of guilt, Butler clearly exposes and defines woman’s duty. Christina feels a sense of duty to her father. Therefore, once Theobald is brought to the rectory to help her ailing father, she and her four sisters “. . . played at cards for him’” as their father suggests in order to determine to whom will be given the opportunity to win him for their husband, as if he is a prize (Butler 73). Here Butler accentuates the gamble that is involved in the marriage practice. The sisters that present a threat to the winner of the card game are quickly removed from the household. Competition for love’s sake is not allowed. There is no love or passion, only a duty. Hence, immediately after their marriage, Theobald pursues male dominance. Christina relinquished, begging forgiveness for defiance. Christina’s duty to her father merely transfers to her husband as if her duty is a legacy of worth. Therefore when Theobald “. . . kissed away her tears, and assured her that he knew she would be a good wife to him”. Christina “exclaimed . . . [out of necessity] ‘you are an angel.’ Theobald believed her” (Butler 89). Consequently from then on, a representation of false idealization is provided gratuitously for him by his wife and he expects her gratitude for his tolerance of her.

Jane, on the other hand, sees herself molding Rochester into a false idol. She admits to herself that she “. . . could not . . . see God for His creature: of whom [she] had made an idol” (Bronte 302). When knowledge of Rochester’s sin comes forth on the day they are to be wed, both are brought to crossroads. Both are made to bear the burden of their individual sins. Both are forced to separate just as the chestnut-tree symbolizes when it split down the center equally. But yet, their hearts linger and yearn to reunite. Even though Jane is not blameless in her own eyes, she is always searching for an answer. She is aware of the necessity of punishment and repentance. Inwardly, she is content. Nevertheless, Jane feels “degraded” as she “. . . [sunk] . . . on the scale of social existence”, she does not “. . . hate of despise herself . . . for these feelings’. Instead, she strives “to overcome them” (Bronte 385). She asks God to direct her (Bronte 386). She believes both her and Rochester “. . . were [equally] born to strive and endure . . . “(Bronte 343).

In contrast, endurance to St. John Rivers, an Evangelical, means self-denial. Equality is out of the question. Even with all his “Zealous . . . labors, blameless . . . life and habits, he . . . did not appear to enjoy . . . mental serenity . . . [or a] inward content” (Bronte 378). His life is like his sermons: “. . . compressed, condensed, controlled” (Bronte 378). He does not allow his own heart to be equally drawn toward love or passion. For instance, when Rosamond is near, he denies himself love by showing indifference to the pain he feels but the truth of his feelings can be seen:

“. . . his hands would tremble and his eye burn. He seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look . . . ‘I love you, and I know you prefer me . . . [but] my heart is already laid on . . . the fire . . . it will soon be . . . a sacrifice consumed’” (Bronte 393-394).

Consequently, a veil is placed over his heart and over his life. The veil prevents him from seeing or reaping heavenly rewards. Therefore, instead of pursuing Rosamond for his wife, he seeks Jane, whom he does not love. St. John’s proposal leaves much to be desired:

“God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments . . . you are formed for labor, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must – shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you – not for pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service’ (Bronte 423).

The differences between St. John and Jane are monumental. St. John treats earthly love as a sin of the flesh. Hence, he fears love and therefore, equality. His earthly sufferings are not derived from the punishment of sin. Instead, his torment ensues through the denial of love and equality. St. John thinks it is his duty to sacrifice (Bronte 443). As a result, he labors hard and long but never reaps earthly rewards. The veil of servitude he places over himself to hinder sin bars him from love. Like Mariana his spirit is in a prison-like environment; he is alone and withdrawn from sexuality; but in contrast to Tennyson’s Mariana, his prison is of his own making.

Jane, on the other hand, is a free spirit: she asks for equality and it is granted her; she seeks love and finds Rochester. She is unyielding to the temptation to marry for a reason other than love; and she cannot settle for servitude to man because her servitude is to God. Therefore, Jane earns equality and benevolence “because [she is her] husband’s life as fully as he [is her life]” (Bronte 475). Consequently and in my opinion, Bronte’s representation of woman in the Victorian Age is more relevant than that of Butler, who merely exposes the reality of woman’s position, or Tennyson who merely pictures woman wasting away in a prison-like atmosphere, or Dickens who blames class separation for man’s guilt when he errs in judgment. Bronte, however, not only presents realities but also alternatives; she contrasts the male who is wasting away with the female; and she also treats both male and female equally regardless of their class separation. Therefore, Bronte sees and anticipates society’s position from a male’s point of view as if she is playing a game of chess. As a result, in the end she seems to say, “Checkmate”.

 

Bibliography:

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Penguin Classics. Q. D. Leavis Ed.  Penguin Books: New York. 1985.

Butler, Samuel. The Way of All Flesh. Penguin Classics. Edited by James Cochrane with an Introduction by Richard Hoggart. Penguin Books: New York. 1986.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Penguin Classics. Angus Calder Ed. Penguin Books: New York. 1985.

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord. “Mariana”. The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: Victorian Prose and Poetry. Edited by Lionel Trilling of Columbia University and Harold Bloom of Yale University. Oxford University Press: New York. 1973. 396-398.

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A Brief Analysis of Woman as an Object in Turn of the Century Literature

By Trudy A. Martinez

At the turn of the century in both beliefs and treatment, woman is an object either desired for her outer beauty and cherished or cultivated as a servant for the pleasure or the benefit of man. Her husband’s expectation is for her to become an extension of him in all respects: to become, in a sense, “his second self.” In principle, she is a possession that he controls at his will. In his view, she is his property. She has no right to question her status. Divorce is only an option of the husband. Consequently, because of woman’s suppression, she losses her identity and longs for freedom just as Mrs. Mallard did in The Joy that Kills; or as a victim, she retaliate just as Mrs. Wright did in Trifles; or she chooses death as a means of escape just as Edna did in The Awakening.

Mrs. Mallard is a repressed human spirit. Brently, her husband, hopelessly controls and nurtures her for his own pleasure, calculating her every move. For example, the time schedule he gives her allows him to know what she is doing every minute of the day. Her maid serves as an observer, reporting her non-compliance. Hence, Mrs. Mallard is like a bird in a cage singing only for her husband. She is submissive. She experiences life only through his eyes. In his eyes, her weak heart provides him justification. Consequently, she sees only what he wishes her to see of the outside world through the pictures he supplies.

When Mrs. Mallard shares her fantasy world in pictures with the doctor, Brently gets angry. “I never told about the light,” she said. Dissatisfied he responds, “Now that you’ve told someone—our world is over.” Defending herself she replies, “You always do the talking; I was trying to talk for myself.” Then he places his hand on her head and says, “Your mind in every thought.” In other words, thinking for you is not permissible. Even though the doctor advises Mrs. Mallard she may now travel, her husband refuses to allow it.

Later, the tone changes from a helpless suppressive tone to an optimistic tone, when she receives news Brently is dead as a result of an accident while on travel. Suddenly, she is able to do things on her own, the thought of experiencing life invades her thoughts and she matters, “I am free, terribly free.” She is no longer required to be a mere product of her husband’s desires. She approaches the front door filled with the thrill of finally experiencing life for her. The glow of the light from the outside world beckons her to escape. Then suddenly, the light is blocked by her husband’s form. The shock of her freedom again being obstructed deprives her of the strength of endurance and she accomplishes her escape only through death.

In Trifles, Susan Glaspell uses a rebellious tone to describe Mrs. Wright’s escape. Because she is not present during an investigation into her husband’s death “from a rope around his neck”, similarities to her circumstances with that of other women surface; this is achieved as Mrs. Hale, and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters, piece together the evidence and ultimately eliminate it. The two women sum up the situation because incidents in their lives are quite similar. Mrs. Hale perceives John as a selfish man who wants things his way. It doesn’t matter what his wife wants only what he wants. And “all he wanted was peace and quiet.” The men laugh at Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters for dwelling on the trifles such as the spoiled preserves or whether Mrs. Wright is going to quilt or knot her quilt. In their estimation there are more serious things to worry about.

The women could not bring themselves to judge or condemn Mrs. Wright. Instead, they find themselves defending her when the men start criticizing the appearance of her kitchen. Her table is only half clean. Mrs. Hale remarks, “It’s wiped to here” in expressive recognition that an interruption prevents Minnie from completing her work. As she speaks, she completes the cleaning for her. Mrs. Hale maintains a resentful tone in response to the men’s outcry, while Mrs. Peters remains apologetic of their insensitivity. Together the women find certain conditions like the nervous stitches in the quilt block to be similar to their own. The “bad sewing” irritates Mrs. Hale so she pulls it out. They reason: “We all go through the same things.” In essence, they dismiss that the crime is not the death of John. After all, he got what he wanted: “peace and quiet”. The crime is their absence from the scene during a time when Mrs. Wright needs a friend. When it is decided “Mrs. Peters didn’t need any supervising because she was married to the law,” the women quickly maneuver the last piece of evidence, representing the motive (the little box containing the dead canary with the wrung neck), out of sight. When a motive cannot be produced, Mr. Henderson settles for a trifle: “Well at least we found out she was not going to quilt it—she was going to–.” “Knot it,” replies Mrs. Hale.

Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, questions the motives of society concerning the rights of women. This is done through Edna who marries outside her own culture, religion, and class status against the advice of her father to a man whom she did not love. As a consequential repercussion of her marriage, she is subjected to differences that leave her out of step with the cultural norm and leave her silently weighing the emotional oppression she feels. Her husband demands she be a slave to his whims and demands she understand his predominance. For example, he is to come and go as he pleases; she is not to question his actions or authority; she is to be attentive to his desires at all times, regardless of the time of day or night. In short, he looks upon Edna as his property.

Edna’s anguished feelings result from her husband’s infliction of criticisms; she cannot explain the reasons for her feelings. But she knew because of this treatment he is stripping her of her individuality. For instance, when she dares to discourage him through inattentive behavior, her husband immediately reciprocates with criticism, finding fault where there is no fault and judging her guilty of neglect to him and to his children. It is something he “felt rather than perceived.” Consequently, she lives a “dual life”: outwardly conforming while inwardly questioning.

The identity of a creole wife is not what Edna wants because a creole wife has no identity. A Creole wife worships her husband and relinquishes her individuality. Edna doesn’t want to be identified as a mother who is treated like an invalid. She wants to be free as a bird. She wants to flee her husband’s control and her controlled existence, but she is not strong enough to endure. Her needs are secondary to her husband. Edna’s need to experience life with a passion is out of the question.  He will not consider divorce.  And there is this honor among men that her love, Robert, will not betray. Consequently, Edna exercises her own choice of death as a means of escape from her misery.

This is an edited reposting of an analysis posted 02/22/2011 at the following link:https://gramatrudy.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/a-brief-analysis-of-woman-as-an-object-in-turn-of-the-century-literature/

A Brief Analysis of Woman as an Object in Turn of the Century Literature

By Trudy A. Martinez

At the turn of the century in both beliefs and treatment, woman is an object that is either preferred for her outer beauty and nurtured or cultivated as a servant for the pleasure or the benefit of man. Woman was expected to become an extension of her husband in all respects: to become, in a sense, “his second self.” In principle, she is viewed as a possession that he controls at his will. She has no right to question her status and divorce is only an option of the husband. Consequently, she is suppressed and losses her identity and longs for freedom as Mrs. Mallard did in The Joy that Kills; or she is victimized and retaliated as Mrs. Wright did in Trifles; or she chooses death as a means of escape as Edna did in The Awakening.

Mrs. Mallard is a repressed human spirit hopelessly controlled and nurtured for the pleasure of her husband, Brently. He calculates her every move. For example, the time schedule he places on her allows him to know what she was doing every minute of the day. Her maid serves as an observer who reports non compliance. Hence, Mrs. Mallard is like a bird in a cage that sings only for her husband and is resigned to experience life only through his eyes. Her weak heart provides him with justification. Consequently, she sees only what he wishes her to see of the outside world through pictures he supplies.

When Mrs. Mallard shares with the doctor her fantasy world in pictures, Brently becomes angry. “I never told about the light,” she said. Dissatisfied he responds, “Now that you’ve told someone—our world is over.” Defending herself she replies, “You always do the talking; I was trying to talk for myself.” Then he places his hand on her head and says, “Your mind in every thought.” In other words, you are not allowed to think for yourself. Even though the doctor advises she may now travel, her husband refuses to allow it.

Later, when new is received that Brently died in an accident while on travel, the tone changes from helpless suppressive tone to an optimistic tone. Suddenly, she is able to do things on her own, the thought of experiencing life invades her thoughts and she matters, “I am free, terribly free.” She is no longer forced to be a mere product of her husband’s desires. She approaches the front door filled with the thrill of finally being able to experience life for herself. The glow of the light from the outside world beckons her to escape. Then suddenly, the light is blocked by her husband’s form. The shock of her freedom again being obstructed deprives her of her strength of endurance and her escape is accomplished only through death.

In Trifles, Susan Glaspell used a rebellious tone to describe Mrs. Wright’s escape. Because she was not present during an investigation into her husband’s death “from a rope around his neck”, similarities to her circumstances with that of other women surface; this is achieved as Mrs. Hale, and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters, piece together and ultimately eliminate the evidence. The two women are able to sum up the situation because incidents in their lives are quite similar. Mr. Hale perceived John as a selfish man who wanted things his way. It didn’t matter what his wife wanted only what he wanted and “all he wanted was peace and quiet.” The men laughed at Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters for dwelling on the trifles such as spoiled preserves or whether Mrs. Wright was going to quilt or knot her quilt when in their estimation there were more serious things to worry about.

The women could not bring themselves to judge or condemn Mrs. Wright. Instead, they found themselves defending her when the men started criticizing the appearance of her kitchen. Her table was only half cleaned. Mrs. Hale remarked, “It’s wiped to here” in expressive recognition that Minnie may have been interrupted, thus preventing her from completing her work. As she spoke, she completed the cleaning for her. Mrs. Hale maintains a resentful tone in response to the men’s outcry, while Mrs. Peters remains apologetic of their insensitivity. Together the women find certain conditions like the nervous stitches in the quilt block to be similar to their own. The “bad sewing” irritated Mrs. Hale so she pulled it out. They reasoned: “We all go through the same things.” In essence, they dismissed that the crime was not the death of John, after all, he got what he wanted: “peace and quiet”. The crime was their absence from the scene during a time when Mrs. Wright needed a friend. When it was decided that “Mrs. Peters didn’t need any supervising because she was married to the law,” the women quickly maneuver the last piece of evidence that represented the motive (the little box containing the dead canary with the wrung neck) out of sight. When a motive could not be produced, Mr. Henderson settles for a trifle: “Well at least we found out she was not going to quilt it—she was going to–.” “Knot it,” replied Mrs. Hale.

Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, questions the motives of society concerning the rights of women. This is done through Edna who marries outside her own culture, religion, and class status against the advice of her father to a man whom she did not love. As a consequential repercussion of her marriage, she is subjected to differences that leave her out of step with the cultural norm and leave her silently weighing the emotional oppression she feels. Her husband demanded she be a slave to his whims and that she understands his predominance. For example, he was to come and go as he pleased; she was not to question his actions or authority; she was to be attentive to his desires at all times regardless of the time of day or night. In short, he looked upon Edna as his property.

Edna’s anguished feelings resulted from her husband’s infliction of criticisms; she could not explain the reasons for her feelings. But she knew that because of this treatment she was being stripped of her individuality. For instance, when she dared to discourage him through inattentive behavior, her husband immediately reciprocated with criticism, finding fault where there was no fault and judging her guilty of neglect to him and to his children. It was something he “felt rather than perceived.” Consequently, she lives a “dual life”: outwardly conforming while inwardly questioning.

Edna didn’t want to be identified as a creole wife who had no identity and who worshipped her husband and relinquished her individuality, nor did she want to be identified as a mother who was treated like an invalid. She wanted to be free as a bird and flee her controlled existence, but she was not strong enough to endure. He need to experience life with a passion was secondary to her husband. He would not consider divorce and there was this honor among men that her love, Robert, would not betray. Consequently, Edna exercised her own choice of death as a means of escaping her misery.

A Nail Stuck, An Analysis of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”

By Trudy A. Martinez

When reading The Glass Menagerie, one feels pity for Tom because his mother mistreat him; this is such a tragedy. She places the entire responsibility of the family upon his shoulders, as if to fulfill a fallacy: There has to be a man in the house if woman is to survive. Time changes with the World War, allowing women to enter the work force. However, Tom’s mother does not work, nor does she seek finding suitable work herself as a means of remedying their situation. Instead, she lives in an imaginary world, wanting her children to remedy the situation for her; she wants only to continue living her fantasy. The picture of the father symbolizes this obsession; it hangs in a most advantageous place: above them all–forever smiling.

The smiling father serves to remind Amanda of a tragic mistake. Yet, it is her “hawk like attention” at the dinner table, driving her son, which mostly catches a reader’s attention. How can anyone eat in peace with someone telling him or her how? “. . . Don’t push with your fingers . . . And chew—chew . . . Eat food leisurely, son” is Amanda’s dinner conversation (Williams 1464). It is surprising; Tom does not get indigestion. One might say, it is the mother’s place to correct her children; but Tom is not a child. Amanda obviously marries beneath her class structure as not many lower class bother to stress “[Eating] food leisurely” (Williams 1464). The lower classes are like slaves to the bourgeois; they are fortunate to have time to eat at all, much less leisurely. Tom refers to being a slave to his mother’s legacy during an argument with her. However, the children’s actions are a constant disappointment and never satisfying to the mother; she pre-judges them as failures. Even so, she is never discourages them from fulfilling goals for her through them.

On the other hand, the opposite is true of her offspring; both Tom and Laura are discouraged. They reject the goals their mother sets. What a tragedy Amanda cultivates through her constant search for perfection from her children. Her aggressive behavior to the fulfilling of her own goals (remaining in the past–her imaginary world– and regaining a higher status) has a reverse effect upon her children. This reflects her constant referral to “gentlemen callers” and through her fear of Tom not attaining higher money earning status and Laura not attaining a money earning status at all. She reminds Laura to “. . . study your typewriter chart . . . [and] . . . practice your shorthand . . .” While at the same time stating”, Stay fresh and pretty” [for men callers]! (Williams 1466). Knowledge is that “. . . aggression given full rein and allowed to run its course in a constant war of all against all, [jeopardizes] . . . survival. . . Clashing interests and social values underlie . . . human conflict” (Vander Zanden 370). Amanda’s clashing interest and aggression is not an exception. Her interest clearly clashes with the interests of her children. She lives only in the memory of her “social roots” where “charm” and an aggressive nature rein in the bourgeois class, a hierarchical structure she secretly wants to re-gain. Nonetheless, by seeking to regain her privilege status through her children, she becomes her own gatekeeper.

When Amanda makes herself the gatekeeper, she becomes susceptible to fate. The theme of The Glass Menagerie is one of vulnerability. What constitutes this concept? When one is vulnerable, are they not both trusting and unsuspecting? This is not the case with Amanda; she is suspicious and non-trusting. She flaunts her suspicious and non-trusting nature in the direction of her son by way of her continual interrogations, assumptions, and comparisons: “I think you’ve been doing things that your ashamed of . . . Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to . . . You remind me of your father [gone]” (Williams 1478-1492). Therefore, considering her vulnerable cannot be because of any action of Tom’s. His action only brings about the inevitable.

The inevitable came only after imagination came into conflict with reality. The breaking of the glass unicorn symbolizes the shattering of imagination by reality. Jim, the only realistic character in the play, is the one who bears a message of truth. He says, “Being disappointed is one thing and being discouraged is something else” (Williams 1498). However, it is not until the unicorn loses its horn that Laura is able to accept the Glass Menagerie for what it is: a collection of ornaments. The glass pieces represent an imaginary world where she is willfully imprisoned. At this point, her disappointment no longer discourages her. She is accepting of the realization that not only is the unicorn now like all the other glass ornaments but she is like everyone else. She is no longer a failure as her mother describes; she does not need to rely on imagination or deception to feel she is special. Her mother implies, “All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be” (Williams 1486). Laura’s perception of the situation differs. She acknowledges the difference when she says, “Maybe [breaking the unicorn’s horn off] is a blessing in disguise” (Williams 1502). Then later, she gives the unicorn that has lost its uniqueness to Jim as a souvenir.
Not long before, her brother gives Laura a souvenir, “. . . a shimmering, rainbow-colored scarf . . . Tom had told her that it was a ‘magic scarf’.” All “You [have to do is] wave it over a gold-fish bowl and they [will] fly away canaries…” (Williams 1474).

The goldfish bowl is symbolic of the life Tom and Laura live in “human desperation” (Williams 1463) under the unchallenged hierarchy of their mother. Whereas, the “fly away canaries” suggest both Tom and Laura can turn into songbirds and fly away to escape from their mother’s tyranny. All it will take to make it happen is for Laura to wave the “magic scarf”. However, had Laura waved the scarp when she emerged from her imaginary world or Had Tom flew away too soon?

Tom shares with Laura his desire to leave so she is aware of his intent; she does not become vulnerable because he leaves. Instead, Tom is the vulnerable one because he flies away like a songbird without facing reality. He does not learn that “So long as boundaries and hierarchies go unchallenged, aggression is inhibited” (Vander Zanden 371). Tom is too trusting and unsuspecting of his own purpose. Therefore, he is unable to take an aggressive stand in his own freedom. Consequently, he becomes “. . . lost in space–” (Williams 1507).

In Tom’s time space, his memories pursue him and his imagination takes control. The most amazing thing he sees is when a magician “. . . got [himself] out of the coffin without removing one nail”. Tom wants to do the same. He tells Laura, “. . . it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin . . . But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?” (Williams 1474).

There is the constant reminder of his father’s smiling face that serves as a reminder: “If there is a will, there is a way”. Even so, did Tom find the way by leaving when he did? Alternatively, does he carry on the family legacy? He appears to have a nail stuck in his heart, which keeps him imprison in a coffin (a trap) of his own making, an imaginary world where he envisions the “tiny transparent . . . ‘colored glass’ . . . bottles . . . [as] . . . bits of [his] shattered rainbow”(Williams 1507). The shattered rainbow is symbolic of the “magic scarf” he gives Laura. His mother tells him he manufactures illusions! (Williams 1507). Yet, he does not challenge her position.

Consequently, he follows in her footsteps manufacturing illusions just as she did. As a result, he makes his own tragic mistake. If this is not the case, why does he continue to search for escapes or “–anything that [can] blow . . . out [the memories of Laura] “? (Williams 1507). The memories of Laura remind Tom of his tragedy just as the picture of his father’s smiling face serves to remind his mother of her own.

Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature.Michael Meyer, ed. Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press: Boston. 1990. 1462-1507.
Vander Zanden, James W. Social Psychology. Fourth Edition. Ohio State University. Random House: New York. 1987.

“Woman in Isolation” An Analysis of Hawthorne’s The Birth-mark

By Trudy A. Martinez

The title of Hawthorne’s short story The Birth-mark, gives significance to a congenital mark. Splitting the word birthmark by using a dash causes segregation and a discernment of meaning and a fragmenting preference, symbolizing isolation. As such, birth comes to mean existence, whereas mark imposes a visible sign that severs continuation. Consequently, in the story, the mark becomes an inherent element, serving as a symbol indicative of position, within the society and an object of scorn unworthy of consideration.

This perception of the birth-mark generates an irony. The Socratic irony is the reason the birth-mark not only surfaces on the face of Georgiana as a sign of an imperfect beauty but also surfaces as a symbol of woman within society. Consequently, the birth-mark’s representation serves to isolate.

Nevertheless, not all men within the society chose to view the birth-mark as an imperfection. For instance, Aminadab, a minor character, makes his membership in this category known when he displays a prevailing characteristic conforming to standards clearly conveying a sense of what is right and good. Aminadab conveys this “spirit and even…heart” when “he mutters to himself:–’If she were my wife, I’d never part with the birth-mark’” (Hawthorne 1159-1163). On the other hand, Georgiana’s husband, Aylmer, takes a distinctively different view of the birth-mark.

The narrator proclaims Aylmer’s belief that the birth-mark is “…the fatal flaw of humanity. . . .” Because of this recognition, his strong convictions and urgent desires emerge, communicating his being one of the “ardent votaries” of society. This becomes apparent when he attempts to alleviate “his wife’s liability” (Hawthorne 1159-1160). Consequently, Aylmer earmarks himself as a God; this distinction gives him “hope”.

However, the only “hope” Aylmer has is to join the love for his wife “. . . with the love for his science” because society defines his “. . . congenial . . . pursuits . . . .” Although these pursuits mark an agreement in sentiment, there is a possibility they might also produce an “aliment” in the process (Hawthorne 1159). Hence, an illusion of a distressed uneasy state occurs; this uneasy state or “aliment” becomes visible because the cultural society defines only two classes. Both of the classes are men. This inadequacy isolates Georgiana from Aylmer. Her isolation is evident because she is undefined. Therefore, she is without status or membership. Consequently, she is as one of the pursuits of her husband.

The narrator validates her as Aylmer’s pursuit when the narrator implies the pursuit is a “must” that must be “…wrought by toil and pain”. The only alternative Aylmer is given to save her from the “toil and pain” is to bring together the love of his wife “…with the love of his science” (Hawthorne 1159-1160).

The narrator’s statement–”it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman”–sets the atmosphere and tone of the story and brings about a theme of isolation that, in turn, brings about another rivalry in the form of a challenge (Hawthorne 1159). The theme of isolation intensifies what the challenge produces when Aylmer attempts to unite his love for science with his love for his wife. The challenge serves to isolate her because she is one of his pursuits. In this perspective, Aylmer is a hunter and Georgiana is his prey. She is challenged by a condition, demanding of a declining transition. He maintains superiority through his “glares” and “gazes” as if an animal is sizing-up his victim. In a sense, the society causes Aylmer’s extreme actions because the society creates “. . . a passive affect, [whereby] man is driven [by the ideology of the society], the object of motivations of which he himself is not aware” (Fromm 18). As a result, Hawthorne’s scientific man is able to accomplish his feat with very little difficulty because he is powerful and “more than a man . . . unwilling to grant the accessibility of other alternatives” (Baxter 231).

Aylmer is not willing to afford Georgiana alternatives because she symbolizes imperfection. Her birth-mark symbolizes the mark placed upon woman by the society when woman is left undefined. As a result, Georgiana’s only choice is to “do or die”. For what other reason will she submit, declare, and plead: “…Life is a [burden] which I would fling down with joy…for the sake of your…peace, and to save [myself]…from madness”. Her questioning remark: “Is this beyond your power…?” removes blame from Aylmer and places blame on society because society produces him (Hawthorne 1162).

Because of the question, “Is this beyond your power?” (Hawthorne 1162), society emerges as if it is a structure of dominoes falling downward upon its members. In other words, the society is the ruler of man (a God-like ornamentation) that produces and reproduces man in specific patterns as if imitating an original mold. This realization brings to mind a warning of Cotton Mather’s: “The mind of God in these matters, is to be carefully looked into, with due circumspection, that Satan deceive us not with his devices, who transforms himself into an angel of light and may pretend justice and intend mischief” (171).

If a society has the power to reproduce distinct patterns in men, then conceivably, man is (under the structure of the society) an image of the God-like ornamentation, which in effect establishes opposition to any imperfections that might threaten the perfection of the society.

Consequently, this reader tends to disagree with Fetterley’s realization that Georgiana died as a direct result of Aylmer’s “…ultimate goal [towards] the desire to create human life” or that “Hawthorne [wrote]…about the sickness of men, [or] …about the flawed and imperfect nature of women” (27).

Even though the symbol of imperfection is what surfaces on the face of Georgiana to denote Aylmer’s struggle towards obtaining superiority through the creation of perfection, the atmosphere and the tone of the story in the opening paragraph is what pushes the structure of dominoes downward and sets man and woman in opposition. The society defines rivalry; hence, rivalry becomes the consequential cause of the isolating effects, resulting in Aylmer’s quest of pursuits. His wife is his pursuits because society does not define her within its structure. As a result, society may be the only motive for the isolating effects that occur.

Therefore, and in conclusion, the title of the story symbolizes the principles of society that sets the path of the characters in The Birth-mark by linking and defining man’s choices. Thus, woman becomes a pursuit of man to rid society of imperfection. However, because the woman is his “love” he attempts to join her with “his love for science” to save her from “toil and pain” (Hawthorne 1159-1160). The structural image of society creates the image of man in the image of a God that flaunts his image downward towards woman and gives her no choice other than to surrender to his will. Just as Georgiana surrenders her being to win acceptance of her husband, Hawthorne surrenders his written theme for acceptance and consideration of others. Hawthorne’s literary maneuver gives the circumstance of justice and injustice, which in turn, defines and distinguishes them within the society. The difference between the two classes of men becomes the distinguishable quality of justice. This quality is reflected by their ability to recognize the birth-mark for what it is or is not. Likewise, because Aylmer fails to recognize and act upon the need of “hope” by his wife, he achieves perfection only in Georgiana’s death. She dies because she lacks “hope”. Her lack of “hope” becomes the society’s failure through ignorance and exclusion. Society denies her the “magic ingredient of hope” and leaves her with “No Choice”. The choice of “No Choice” is the gauge that serves to place man as a God over her in man’s pursuit of a Goddess, free from imperfection, that will measure up to his own God like image (and that had been provided to him by society). Society is the pacifying agent that justifies the inconceivable quest for perfection. Therefore, perfection becomes inevitable because only in death can Georgiana ever achieve it.

Was the reason for her death because Aylmer views her birth-mark as a symbol of the imperfection in society? I believe so because it is only through the essence of the end of the story that Georgiana suddenly becomes a symbol of perfection. Her lack of “hope” forcefully imprisons her in a society awaiting death by the means of her husband’s hand as the oppressor.

Bibliography:
Baxter, Annette K. “Independence vs. Isolation: Hawthorne and James on the Problem of the Artist”. Nineteenth Century Fiction. Vol 10 (Dec. 1955). 225-231.
Fetterley, Judith. “Women Beware Science: The Birthmark”. The Resisting Reader.Indiana University Press: Indiana. 1978. 22-33.
Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Perennial Library Edition. Vol.IX of the World Perspectives Series. Ruth Nanda Anshen, Editor. Harper Row: New York. 1974.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birth-mark”. Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through Romantic. Vol I. Third Ed. George McMichael, ed. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York. 1980. 1159-1169.
Mather, Cotton. “The Wonders of the Invisible World: A Third Curiosity”. Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through Romantic. Vol I. Third Ed. George McMichael, ed. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York. 1980. 165-171.

The Abyss of Solitude, An Analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

By Trudy A. Martinez

Reading and comprehending the novel, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin is an inordinately laborious experience, reminding the reader a woman’s education is lacking during this period. The novel demands the mind of the reader to correspond the novel with appropriate grammar while interpolating and interpreting the historical progression of society from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. Anne Rowe cites Chopin’s narrative as an “exploration . . . of such controversial topics as a woman’s right to question society’s expectation of her . . . “(232). This appears to be the reason Anne Rowe implies Chopin is “. . . assured her place . . . in the history of American literature . . . “(232). Anne Rowe states, “Kate Chopin’s life began ordinarily enough giving little hint of controversy that would surround her” (228). Rowe acknowledges a change came upon Chopin shortly after the American Civil War as Chopin “apparently underwent . . . withdrawal from most social activities during which she looked to escapist literature for relief”(229). Anne Rowe also acknowledges Kate Chopin is “ahead of her time in subject matter to a degree of her literary experimentation” (232). What Rowe does not recognize is the extent of Chopin’s genius. Whereas, Mary Wollstonecraft says (and I tend to agree), “Rousseau declares . . . ‘Opinion is the grave of virtue among the men; but its throne among women’. But, even with respect to the opinion of the world, I am convinced that this class of reasoners are mistaken” (133).

The theme of the novel concentrates on the marriage and life of a Southern American woman, Edna, who marries a man of a different religion in “violent opposition of her father . . . to her marriage with a Catholic” (Chopin 19). The belief is since “. . . the conduct of a woman is subservient to the public opinion, her faith in matters of religion should, for that very reason, be subject to authority” (Wollstonecraft 87).

As a consequential repercussion of Edna’s marriage to Leonce Pontellier, Edna is subject to religious differences which leaves her out of step with “. . . the order of nature . . .” (Wollstonecraft 87). Because women are “not in the capacity to judge for themselves”, it is the feeling of a society of men that women shall “abide by the decision of their fathers . . . as confidently as by that of the church” (Wollstonecraft 87).

Chopin uses Edna’s father as a well-found oracle, giving reason for consideration of the Civil War and the War’s affects upon society. In this way, Chopin adds historical substance to the novel because Edna’s father served in the Confederate army as a Colonel. The aftermath of the Civil war produces a force that causes a replacement or alteration of man’s value system and thereby, woman’s, the foundation for the “Love of Man” to conform to its purpose of “sameness”, a concept of partnership (Fromm 12, 69, 70-89). This same force conditions the mind of the people to accept and withstand the cry of agony . . . while tilting the scales of justice in favor of social injustice; thus, affecting the status of women in marriage, in the family, and in the home, in all endeavors in a Jungle of progress (Martinez 1-5), the very heart of Chopin’s novel.

There is an unnatural distinction within the society, in that, “…The private …virtue of woman” is “…very problematical”, for numerous male writers, including Rousseau, insist that woman “should…be subjected to a severe restraint, that of propriety” (Wollstonecraft 144). In the plot, Edna’s destiny is “to realize her position in the universe”; she is “to recognize her relationships as an individual” in her marriage, in her heart (Chopin 15), and in an unnatural society. It is a heavy “weight of wisdom” to bestow on such a young woman, “more wisdom than the Holy Ghost” normally confirms (Chopin 15).

Edna situation provides practical proof (Chopin 15). When she marries, she marries not for love; her marriage is more for prestige (Chopin 19). Edna marries outside of her class structure to a man of prominence, Mr. Pontellier, a French Creole, a member of the old social elite and an aristocracy (Culley 11). Edna weds with two strikes against her because not only does she marry a man from outside her religious beliefs but she also weds into a different culture. Although Edna considers her husband a kind and devoted man, she also weighs the emotional oppression she feels with uncertain anguish and without understanding in silence and solitude (Chopin 8). Edna’s husband, Mr. Pontellier, demands Edna be a slave to his whims and she understand his predominance; For example, he is to come and go as he pleases; she is not to question his actions; she is to be attentive to his desires at all times regardless of the time of day or night (Chopin 5-7). In short, Mr. Pontellier looks upon Edna as his property (Chopin 4).

Edna gains the knowledge she seeks, the knowledge few us find in the parables of the scriptures. “How many souls” perish from agitation? (Chopin 15). Edna’s anguish feeling is a result of her husband’s infliction of criticism; Edna cannot explain it (Chopin 8). Nevertheless, she knows because of her husband’s treatment towards her, she is effectively stripped of her due benevolence as his wife as per the scripture I Corinthians 7:3. For instance, when Edna dares to discourage her husband through inattentive behavior one night, when he returns from Klein’s hotel where he had joined other men for a game of cards, he immediately reciprocates with criticism, finding fault where there is no fault, judging her quilt of neglect to him and to his children (Chopin 7-9). “How many souls” think their harassing works are the answer? (Chopin 15). Consequently, “Edna . . . lived her . . . life . . . within herself” in suffering, it is not her nature to complain. She is living a “dual life”; while outwardly she conforms inwardly she questions (and suffers) (Chopin 15). Of course, Mr. Pontellier justifies his actions through false implications of Edna being his “sole object of existence”; he is persistent and redundant (Chopin 7-9). Edna’s inattentiveness is something Mr. Pontellier “felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without . . . regret and ample atonement” (Chopin 9).

Because of his actions, Mr. Pontellier produces humanism in the form of materialism in restitution for the guilt he feels for his unnecessary harassment towards his wife. In other words since he is unable to justify his actions, he seeks forgiveness from his wife through the giving of money and materialism by way of gifts (Chopin 9).

As the recipient of such gifts, Edna is envied by the Creole women and is “forced to admit that she knew of none better”, when her husband is declared “the best husband in the world” by them (Chopin 9). Therefore, materialism becomes the symbol of Edna’s acceptance by the Creole women.

The Creole woman possess characteristics which differ from Edna as she grew up on a plantation; Edna is not subjected to living in close proximity to others until after her marriage to Mr. Pontellier; she was never exposed to women who spoke so frankly in mixed company (Chopin 6-11). Regardless of the fact that the married Creole woman is graceful and charming, there is a distinctive characteristic, which reflects an “absence of purity” about her. To Edna, the Creole woman has no freedom from evil or quilt, no innocence, no chastity (Chopin 9-11). In addition, the Creole woman worships her husband, a holy privilege that obliterates her individuality (Chopin 10).

In the ancestral past of Europeans, woman is subject to oppression, ridicule, torture, imprisonment, and death for inherent qualities said to be that of a witch, (the natural qualities of woman). With the sanction of the Catholic Church, women accused of witchcraft were tried, and burned at the stake. Persecution is a means of suppressing a woman, controlling her, and causing her to change her nature to suit the purpose of a man. As an indirect result of the historical experience, the Creole woman’s nature differs; she is now like the Creole man; she demands perfection (Chopin 13). Consequently, this difference explains Adele’s reasoning for demanding the adornment of her husband. “If Adele’s husband did not adore her, he was a brute, deserving of death by slow torture” (Chopin 10). Because of being idolized, she, in turn, idolizes and is overprotective of her children, leaving them unable to stand their ground among other children. Consequently, she over-emphasizes the role of the mother (Chopin 9-10).

In as much as there is a converse difference between Edna and the Creole women, a difference an observer might not recognize or distinguish without an emotional perception of a subjective point of view, Edna begins to form a close friendship with Adele with bonds of sympathy as well as love (Chopin 15-16). There is no distinction of class between Edna and Adele like that which arose in a new society between the social elite and the new money elite. The rising upper-middle class (the bourgeoisie) emerges with the industrialization following the Civil War to compete against the social elite. Evidence of this animosity presents itself in the novel when Mr. Pontellier (a member of the social elite) does not attend the soirees musicales with his wife because he considers the soirees musicales bourgeois (Chopin 68).

Edna begins to display a rebellious nature as the novel zeroes in on the values of specific members of the society during a historical period while at the same time sexism becomes a symbol of superiority over materialism (Martinez 2). Nevertheless, the question is “Would men…be content with rational friendship instead of slavish obedience” (Wollstonecraft 150). Chopin acknowledges Edna’s rebellious protest when Mr. Pontellier says, “She’s making it devilishly uncomfortable for me . . . She’s got some sort of notion in her head concerning the eternal rights of women” (65). To symbolize rebellion and sexism, Edna’s father, a Confederate Colonel of the Civil War, comes to visit (Chopin 67). In addition, the Pontellier household has a special guest for dinner, Dr. Mandelet, who responds to the invitation of Mr. Pontellier (Chopin 67). Dr. Mandelet tells Mr. Pontellier: “Woman is a very peculiar organism . . . It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them” (Chopin 66). Thereby, Capitalism indirectly produces Freudianism as an answer to woman’s dilemma (Martinez 5). Dr Mandelet, Mr. Pontellier, and Edna’s father never consider the ramifications the after affects of a change in society has upon Edna (Chopin 64-71).

The Civil War is a war where brother fights against brother, evolving America from an Agrarian society to a Capitalistic society. America’s transformation causes to alter man’s value system, the foundation for the “Love of man”, to conform to the purpose of Capitalism (Fromm 6-76). A New Article of Faith within the society produces or introduces a family of new “hope”, which allows subordination-ism of impersonal forces, which are dependent and reliant on the existence of the Imperial Force to guide all factions of society to their destiny (Martinez 2).

Edna is guided towards her destiny when she becomes disillusioned and begins to live for today (not thinking about tomorrow), a trait that is characteristic of the American society following war involvement. “One of these days,” she says, “I’m going to pull myself together for a while and think–try to determine what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don’t know . . . I must think about it” (Chopin 82).

The Creole husband is never jealous, as there is an honor among men. To him the mortification of passion or the interruption of circulation of passion is one who has become diminutive by discontinuance or practice (Chopin 12). For another man to lust after her made him feel proud. On Grand Isle, Mr. Pontellier even encourages participation to an extent in the prevention of boredom by his wife of her situation (Chopin 4-12).

The main character of the novel, Edna, the southern American woman, is shown love as God, our Lord, had intended by way of a friend, a single man, Robert Lebrum. Robert lacks the desire to pursue or gain through endeavor for wealth; he gives forth sudden, brief utterances of repeated expressions of appreciation and of affection; and yet he is a perfect gentleman (Chopin 12). The reality of a changed society does not affect him; Robert remains a unique individual untouched by intense ambitions for materialistic gain (Chopin 61). The new individualism introduced to society with the industrialization of America did not replace Robert’s uniqueness (Martinez 2). As a repercussion of Edna’s attraction for Robert, she alters her priorities.

“…When a woman is admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far intoxicated by the admiration she receives, as to neglect to discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection that would equally tend to make her useful and happy”(Wollstonecraft 142).

As an indirect result of Robert’s unchanged values, his love is unobtainable (Chopin 111). The love for which Edna longs leaves her in state of un-fulfillment (Chopin 114). Edna’s destiny is pre-ordained, that is, if Edna tries, if Edna struggles, if Edna works hard, but only, if Edna Conforms (Martinez 3).

“…The interest of each individual (is) to be virtuous; and thus private virtue becoming the cement of public happiness, an orderly whole is consolidated by the tendency of all the parts towards a common centre (Wollstonecraft 144).
The behavioral tactics of the forces within a changed society (Martinez 1-5) conditions Edna. Edna changes; she becomes more attentive to the children (Chopin 47). Edna has hope for a better tomorrow; she is willing to work hard to get ahead, to build a better future, if not for herself for her children.

Edna loves her children:

“She wept for the very pleasure when she felt their little arms clasping her; their hard, ruddy cheeks pressed against her own glowing cheeks. She looked into their faces with hungry eyes that could not be satisfied with looking. In addition, what stories they had to tell their mother! About the pigs, the cows, the mules!…It was a thousand times more fun to haul real chips for…real fire than to drag painted blocks along the banquette on Esplanade Street!” (Chopin 93). “It was with a wrench and a pang that Edna left her children” (Chopin 94) with old Madame Pontellier.
Edna has a dream (Chopin 98); she wants to be with her love, Robert (Chopin 110). However, her best friend, Adele, the Creole woman, needs her. Chopin uses the opportunity of separating Edna from Robert with the pretense of helping a friend to acknowledge Edna’s fear for her children. When her best friend, the Creole woman, says, “Think of the children, Edna. Oh, think of the children! Remember them!” (109) she reinforces Edna’s fear for her children. However, Edna has already thought of her children. As a result, she became lost in an unfulfilled dream; she gave into temptation. Edna reverts to materialism by promising the children “Bonbons” in restitution for her quilt of separating herself from them (Chopin 102) just as her husband did her in the past (Chopin 9). Conversely, Mr. Pontellier does not recognize his promises in the same manner (Chopin 7).

“Parents often love their children in the most brutal manner and sacrifice every relative duty to promote their advancement in the world” (Wollstonecraft 150).
Edna’s knowledge of her own transgressions and the loss of her love, Robert, sent her in protest of the affects of historical progression upon her and her life. Women in general fled into the streets, into the work place, in flight from their home and family, in search of a truth, in search for the answer to their dilemma. Edna was no exception.

Edna repeatedly said, “The voice of the sea is seductive, never-ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude” (Chopin 15, 113). Edna soars like “‘the bird above the level plain of tradition and prejudice” (Chopin 82). However, her wings are not strong enough; therefore, she becomes “a sad spectacle…bruised, exhausted” as she flutters “back to earth” (Chopin 82). Consequently, she is to find her peace in the solitude of the sea where “the voice of the sea speaks to the soul” (Chopin 15). Chopin attests to the significance of the Civil War when “Edna looked into the distance and the old terror flamed up…” (Chopin 114). Then “Edna heard her father’s voice and… The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged…” (Chopin 114). The reader’s imagination allows, “The touch of the sea” to become “sensuous, enfolding” [Edna’s] “body in its soft, close embrace” (Chopin 15).

In conclusion, an analysis should reflect and acknowledge the historical progression, the after effects of the Civil War, and the war’s consequential influence upon a society and its members. The implications of a societal change, class structure, and the values of man and woman who subsequently emerge following a war are a well-found revelation in consideration for what seems to be the author’s intended message. Hence, historical progression contributes to a consequential, unabridged, revered understanding of the novel’s theme and substance that, in turn, gives the novel historical significance.

Bibliography:
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. A Norton Critical Edition. (Culley, M. ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976.
Culley, M. Marginal Note. The Awakening. By Chopin, Kate. New York: University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1976.
I Corinthians 7:3. The Holy Bible. Kings James Version.
Fromm, Erick. The Art of Loving. World Perspective Series, Volume IX. Anshen, Ruth Nanda, ed. New York, New York: Harper & Row, 1959
Martinez, Trudy. “Birth of the Impersonal Forces and an Analysis of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle”(an interpretation of history for the period 1865-1900). Written for Dr. Don Rosenberg, History 17B, Cerro Coso Community College, .Summer,1990.
Rowe, Anne. “Kate Chopin”. The History of Southern Literature: The War and After, 1861-1920, Part II. Rubin, Jackson, Moore, Simpson, and Young, Editors. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 185. 228-232.
Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of The Rights of Woman. A Norton Critical Edition. (Poston, Carol H., ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1975. 3-194.

Three Basic Ideas in Thoreau’s Walden

By Trudy A. Martinez

The three basic ideas (Experience, Self-reliance, and Worship) in Thoreau’s Walden deals specifically with one theme: “Simplicity”.  To Thoreau, simplicity in experience, simplicity in self-reliance, and simplicity in worship breeds the finer things in life.  In contrast, Thoreau sees complexity breeding only dissatisfaction.  For example, a farmer might “get his shoestrings” [by speculating] in herds of cattle.  But in the process the farmer does not “solve the problem of [his] livelihood”, he just complicates his life more than needs be.  As a result, complexity becomes a complicated man’s tomb.

Simplicity in experience to Thoreau means learning to live without complication.  To accomplish this, he suggests, “[reducing]…things in proportion”.  In other words, he suggests getting rid of details so that your accounts can be “[kept on] …your thumb-nail”.  Thoreau says: “An honest man…  [needs only]…to count…his ten fingers, or in extreme cases…his toes”.  By operating in such a manner, a man remains in control of his own life and “life [is driven] into a corner”.  Consequently, disparity is removed from life.  Life becomes an experiment.  The result of experimentation brings experience.  Moreover, as a direct result of simplicity in one’s experience, one learns what life has to teach.

In order to learn what life teaches, Thoreau suggests one must learn to be self-reliant.  To Thoreau simplicity is a major factor in this aspect too.  Through the development of his self-reliance, he gains “the seeds of [his] virtues.  This is seen by “the results of [his] experience in raising beans”.  He did not rely on “horses or cattle, or hired men or boys” as the gentlemen farmer’s did. Instead, he loves his rows of beans; they bring him closer to nature; they helped him achieve self-reliance through simplicity.  “Daily the beans saw [him coming] to their rescue armed with a hoe . . . “.  Consequently, he gains reward for his endeavors.  As a result, the expense of his endeavor is slight in contrast to the “gentlemen farmers”.  In addition to earning enough to meet his necessary expenditures through the growth of his self-reliance, he attains character: truth, simplicity, and faith.

Through truth, simplicity, and faith Thoreau worships the flourishing life of the wilderness.  He worships by responding to nature and nature’s miracles.  For instance, Thoreau sees “Walden [as] a perfect forest mirror”.  The lake serves as the “earth’s eye”.  In the earth’s eye, the refection of both “heaven and earth” is seen through the colors of both blue and green.  He sees Spring as the season of the year where rebirth occurs.  It is as if the creator is playing around with both variety and unity.  The exposed banks of the railroad cut sport this concept.  “The whole bank . . . [was] overlaid with a mass of foliage or sandy rupture . . . the [product] of one spring day.”  As a result responding to the rapture of nature, Thoreau is affected by the scenes he sees.  The scenes cause him to feel “as if . . . [he is standing] in the laboratory of the Artist who made the world and [him] . . . ” It is as if he “–had come to where [the creator] was still at work, sporting on [the] bank, and with excess of energy strewing his fresh designs about.”

Consequently, it is understandable why Thoreau relies on “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” in all his endeavors.  Simplicity is the means he uses to experience life.  Simplicity is the method by which he gains self-reliance.  In addition, simplicity supplies the clarity of his response to the beauty he worships in nature and with nature.  As a result, he breeds oneness with nature and sees the beauty of his own experiments.

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