Contradictions in Feminist Literature: Halide Edip's Recreation of Patriarchy vs.
Henrik Ibsen's Destruction
For over five thousand years, the signs of patriarchal ideology have been prevailing in
any concept and phenomenon related to human beings and nature. Nowadays, mass
media keeps on coding and presenting the ways of being man and woman. Literature is
one of the main fields in mass media that is occupied with this coding and presenting.
It is possible to say that the presentation of male and female in literary works -even in
the ones accepted and labeled as "feminist"- has been reproducing the gender roles by
showing no alternative to the societies in which it is produced. However, a literary work
is able to destroy socially-established norms if only it awakens people by doing the
undone and showing the fact that there is always an alternative.
In this article, it is aimed to compare and contrast Halide Edip Adıvar's Handan and
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House in terms of "recreation" and "destruction" of patriarchal
ideology. Halide Edip's Handan is aimed to compare and contrast to Ibsen's A Doll's
House as the stories of two women may be considered as the different representation of
women's similar "marriage experiences".
Handan by Halide Edip Adıvar
Halide Edip, who is acknowledged to be the first woman novelist of Turkey although
there is Fatma Aliye and Emine Semiye as her predecessors, is accepted as a significant
figure in Turkish feminism and modernism. It should be admitted that she played an
important role in the war of Turkish Emancipation and represented Turkish womanhood
in Turkey and abroad. Her being recognized as a leader and spokeswomen for Turkish
feminism also resulted in her being recognized as a "feminist novelist".
However, a close re-examination of her fiction shows that her strategies of constructing
femininity and womanhood are in harmony with the patriarchal modes of literary
representation. In her early works, the well-established roles of women and men in
patriarchal societies are recreated instead of being challenged. In order to idealize her
woman characters as powerful, active intellectuals, she creates their opposites as passive,
ignorant and self-sacrificing figures who are continually looked down on and criticized
by the male point of view of the narrator.
For instance, in her novel named Handan, Halide Edip tells a story of liaison between
Handan and Refik Cemal through Refik Cemal's first person narration. Therefore, the
reader is limited to examine Handan's personality from a male point of view. In the
novel, Refik Cemal, who works at the department of foreign affairs as a government
official, gets married to Neriman who is grown up by her aunt's husband Mr. Cemal.
Neriman likes Handan -Mr. Cemal's daughter from his previous marriage- very much.
On the other hand, refusing her instructor Nazım's marriage proposal, Handan gets
married to Hüsnü Pasha. When...