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Feminism In Literature Essay

1523 words - 6 pages

Books, plays, and movies that depict culture and social life often make statements about social issues such as gender roles, racism, and class distinction. Stories set up a context in which characters relate, often representing “stock” characters chosen from society and placed in situations where their stereotypical behaviors—and sometimes their breaking of these stereotypes—are highlighted. As feminism became a popular movement in Western countries in general and the United States in particular, female voices were naturally heard through fictional characters. Social and political issues commonly fuel entertainment; feminism, racism, and classism—recurring themes in entertainment through the 20th Century and into the modern day—have defined many narratives that are considered classics. The works that portray aspects of feminist issues and other facets of social inequality are Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” and Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” These stories use the female protagonists or lack thereof in central characters to expose gender roles, the perpetuation of social inequality through conversation and refusal to accept change, and the processes of transformation—or lack thereof—to make powerful statements that expose social problems.
The heroines of literature need not be perfect specimens of humanity to gain a reader’s sympathy. Literary technique often involves the creation of flawed and even repellent personages, evoking either reluctant sympathy or horror in the reader. Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara—an icon of feminist literature (and later film)—exemplifies a woman of undesirable character, representing the “Southern Belle.” Scarlett O’Hara is a study of this stock character, with her life revolving around social conventions, style, and propriety. Furthermore, despite the feminist treatment of her character, she is absolutely not an icon of revolution against inequality in general. As the typical Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara enjoys the privileges of a well-to-do Southern woman, living a plantation life in the slave-owning South. She is not a champion of social change outright. Her fiery personality is not necessarily a virtue; though her “unladylike” behavior becomes a kind of feminist rebellion against when coupled with circumstances that cast her from a life of privilege to experiences of bitter responsibility and loss, her initial desires as a woman certainly represent superficial interests as a society girl in a society shaped around society; when she is widowed, her concerns are less for the death of her husband than for the damper that requisite public mourning placed on her social life. Scarlett’s “strength” also derives from self-interest; though her character may be endearing, her personality is distasteful. Despite all of this, and despite the fact that Scarlett O’Hara continues to make mistakes, her strong will and ability to rise to life’s challenges endear her and make...

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