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Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, And Harriet Ann Jacobs’ Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

1370 words - 5 pages

Although legality by and large determines the existence and prominence of oppression, the concept extends well beyond the scope of the law. Albeit the law can nullify legislation that entails aspects of oppression such as discrimination, the law can also permit, at times, for such things to exist. A legal system that is implemented and enforced within a society eventually becomes directly fused with the citizens and even life itself. It is interesting that contemporarily we most often discuss and reminisce the most important and most well-known events in our history; the most groundbreaking ones. In our schools we teach the “master-narrative” but overlook the personal lives of historical figures who were involved in such events, as well as those characters who were just “average” victims of their situations. Just as riots and marches can be used as tools for or against a cause, personal expression, on a much smaller and individual scale form the very building blocks that lead to revolutionary events and changes in our world. Collectively revolutionary leaders and events in our history are of utmost importance, but the individuals who may not have had their stories told, or that were involved in the initiation of the cause are just as vital. Before fighting the injustices out in the world we must be able to express them within ourselves. Even leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. had tactics that he would practice when in front of national leaders, and those which he incorporated into his daily and personal life as a means to remain strong. We can observe this “micro-level resistance” to relevant injustices through the lives of individuals such as portrayed in two novels: Kate Chopin’s fictional work, The Awakening, and Harriet Ann Jacobs’ slave narrative and fictionalized account of her life’s events, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
First and foremost it is necessary to establish the essence and existence of the state of oppression as it relates to each story and protagonist. Chopin’s novel takes place in the late 1800s just before it was published in 1899 (Katechopin.org), and depicts the female struggle for independence and equality, unjust male superiority, and gender biased societal double standards. Jacobs’ novel was published in 1861 under the author’s pen name “Linda Brent” and portrays a young African American girl who was born into slavery and how she is able to escape the cruel system not only as a slave but as a woman as well (Jacobs).
Let’s begin with the former by first establishing that that our main character, Edna Pontellier, does in fact feel oppressed. To do this we can examine where there is evidence of society’s expected female role, the standards which women had to fulfill to satisfy the expected criteria, as well as how these were reflected in Edna’s life. First of all the female was considered merely an extension of society and of man. At one point upon returning from the beach and not using any sort of...

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