The Effects of Feminism in Southern Literature

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The Effects of Feminism in Southern Literature

The topic that I have come to terms on to do this final paper is that of feminism in southern literature. For this topic, I chose to read 4 novels written during the late 18th to early 19th century that took place in the South. These novels are Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. All of these novels differ in many ways; however, they all contribute certain characteristics of that of the ideal “Southern Woman.” The main themes that I have identified in my research can be put into four categories. They are 1) Setting and genre, 2) “Heroine,” 3) Race and Gender, 4) Attitude. To start off this fine investigative draft, I am going to begin with Attitude. Before, you say anything, attitude is relevant. However, it doesn’t just pertain to the characters, but also the entire book. In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a journal article written by Renee Hausman in The English Journal, Hausman discusses the importance of the study of “the black woman” in the novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, from the students’ perspective. In the article, Hausman depicts the main character of the novel, Janie Woods, as being “an extraordinarily vibrant woman, who lives according to her own dreams and ideals.” As she continues, Hausman talks about each of Woods’ marriages and how she [Woods] thought and reared that “the myth of marriage was the only route of expression and satisfaction for a woman.” Woods even says “Did marriage compel love like the sun the day?” (p.21) Hausman goes through each of Woods marriages, from the first to Logan Killicks, whom she did not love, to finally the marriage to Tea Cake that gave her happiness, and discusses the pros and cons of each. After Tea Cake’s death, Woods says, “Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah in mah house and live by comparisons.”(p.158) At the end of the article, Hausman concludes by saying that the rich dialect is what serves as the glue between the language, thought, and culture in the novel. This whole article helps any reader set the tone for the novel. Janie Woods, the main female protagonist in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, experiences a lot of so called “heartache” and bad relationships before finally settling down in the remainder of her life. However, the reason for all of it is because she didn’t want to settle and she wanted to be treated equally and how she wanted to be treated. That’s why her first two marriages failed: one wanted a farm hand and the other wanted a trophy wife. Neither one of those options was okay for Woods. Janie’s “attitude” appears again in another article, titled Sex, Race, and Criticism: Thoughts of a White Feminist on Kate Chopin and Zora Neale Hurston. This article/essay, edited by Ellen Cantarow, was delivered as a lecture at the Modern Language Association convention in December 1977. In this article, Cantarow is comparing and analyzing the works of Kate Chopin and Zora Neale Hurston as well as comparing the main characters in the novels to events that occurred in her [Cantarow] life. Cantarow relates more to Janie in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” than to Edna in “The Awakening” for many reasons in which she explains. Cantarow begins by relating to the struggle that Edna faced all throughout her life in her marriage as well in society which events that happened in her life that were similar. Cantarow talks about that even though Edna views herself as being a prisoner in her marriage, however, with that there are opportunities for freedom. One of those opportunities is running off with Robert, and another is what Edna ends up choosing: suicide. Even though Cantarow aligns herself with Edna’s character, she [Cantarow] finds Edna weak. With that being said, Cantarow really admires that strength and independence that Janie has. Ok,...
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