For my final blog post I want to talk about how this course has encouraged me to dive into a side of literature I never really focused on: American Women Writers.
When signing up for this course last semester, I was intrigued to learn more about the topic, but didn’t expect what I’d come into when the class started. Throughout, the course we focused on characters coming to a realization and seeking independence from their controlled lives. It wasn’t only the characters that were like this, but they were reflections from the authors lives.
I think its important that this course is here at the University. It’s important to women throughout history and today. This course expanded my knowledge on American Women Writers.
I chose an article by the African American Review from Summer 1994 : Re-viewing Their Eyes- New Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God
In this article it addresses author reviews of Their Eyes Were Watching God- The Critical Interpretation series. The African American Review talks on the lack of acknowledgement of black women that famous authors didn’t talk about in their reviews. The Re-viewing addressed the importance of black feminism. They break things down for undergraduate reading, but don’t offer a complete shift in interpretive paradigm. The re-view of the author reviews has encouraged me to read the novel in a sense thats not just historical, but constructive enough that the literary work offers diversity that many works of the time didn’t.
Ch. 6: Pg 64-65.
The first time we see completely how controlling Jon was of Janie.
“This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It didn’t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in the store. And one night he had
Their Eyes Were Watching God 65
caught Walter standing behind Janie and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of the store and Wal- ter didn’t see him. He felt like rushing forth with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store. That was all. She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. But he never said things like that. It just wasn’t in him. Take the matter of the yellow mule, for instance.”
Janie has a sense for independence. She longs for more than just security and wealth. We see her persistence on independence in Chapter 1 when she wears overalls. She has confidence and an understanding comes from her experience with people. She understands that people have limited perspectives. Through her three marriages she was able to create a mature knowledge on who she is and a sense of her independence.
Where Granny thinks security and wealth is the most important, being once a slave her experience of the world is much different from Janie. She thinks stability and security by being married is most important. Security is through marriage and financial stability in Granny’s eyes. It shows the difference between the two characters. Generational changes that are seen throughout every family.
“She went on and one. She remembered the night she swam far out, and recalled the terror that seized her at the fear of being unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end.” Chapter XXXIX.
During the 19th century, many novels involving women did not end happily when they realized and observed the world around them. They acknowledged what they liked and disliked and educated themselves on what’s right and what’s wrong. In a way, killing oneself through drowning makes a statement, it’s strong. It’s following through with something that many can’t fathom. It’s the reality setting in that to society they aren’t worth much as women and the only way to be free from it is death.
In a way, Edna’s death is a statement, as she drifts and thinks of her life, her childhood, her family and memories. She’s content with her death and that’s what’s so striking. She made the decision and that’s that.
The different female characters within the novel have unlikely personalities. Edna is much different from Adele Ratignole and Madame Reisz. Edna goes about her life. Where Adele Ratignole is the ideal mother and wife. Throughout The Awakening we see Edna finding her lifestyle unappealing. We see throughout the novel her observation of Adele Ratignole and her husband.
In Chapter 18, Edna’s observation is more prominent:
The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui.
Edna’s character starts to unveil realities that was snubbed during the 19th century. As a mother, as a wife and as a woman she acknowledges her friend Adele’s happy marriage, but also doesn’t want to be like Madame Reisz and her longing for something more. Edna’s character is a different version of a woman in the 19th century, a woman who is awaken by whats around her and see’s what she wants and what she doesn’t want.
The Awakening is a title that fits with the the events going on when author Kate Chopin was writing it. Where women’s rights were an ‘awakening’ to the United States in the 19th Century. It also represents character Edna Pontellier personal awakenings within her own life. Chopin uses The Awakening to bring up different standards of what being a women during is like during that time. Chopin addresses female sexuality, motherhood and marital infidelity in a different light.
The Awakening is a novel that was ahead of its time, but taught for decades to come.
HARRIET WILSON’S OUR NIG: A LOOK AT THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF A NOVEL THAT EXPOSES A CENTURY’S WORTH OF HYPOCRITICAL IDEOLOGY
In the article, Elwood-Farber addresses the how white religious women of the 19th century were hypocrites to their own beliefs and how Harriet Wilson covers the hypocrisy in the novel: “Harriet Wilson unveils the hypocrisy of the Christian people of the North who claim homage to their father in heaven, yet do not look upon another human being as a person rather than just a “nig.” Wilson’s critique of Northern racism includes the North’s
assumptions on piety as a result of her experiences with hypocriti- cal, religious people. As true womanhood demands, women in the nineteenth century represented model Christians who personified charity, compassion, and love of God.”
Also, Elwood-Farber mentions how Wilson creates this sympathizing character Frado where white women will draw to, but in reality they’d do the same or something similar to as Mrs. Bellmont or Aunt Abby would do: “Frado’s only two examples prove just the opposite. Mrs. Bellmont represents the she-devil and Aunt Abbey is more complicated since she seems helpful, yet refuses to leave her position of comfort and security for just a “nig.” As Margaret Lindgren illustrates, the two women represent brutality and benevolence. Aunt Abbey tries to stand up to Mrs. Bellmont’s abusive acts and horrid treatment of Frado, however only until Mrs. Bellmont’s wrath turns on Abbey and either humiliates her or banishes her to her own apartments. It seems that white people who are willing to feel sympathy for Frado have strict limitations on their charitable acts.”
How are religion and faith represented in the novel? Point to specific examples to support your conclusions.
Religion and Faith is represented throughout the novel, but in many ways it contradicts itself. Mrs. Bellmont a woman who claims to be a woman of faith, but treats Frado like she is scum to me she’s a hypocrite because how can she be a woman of faith, but filled with so much rage and bitterness. We see how James and Aunt Abby trying to address Mrs. Bellmont, but fail to change and follow the bible. We see Frado crying out to God for making her the way she is, there is the belief of religion and the faith shown throughout the different characters. However, Wilson’s novel represents the hypocrites of a faith. They talk the talk, but don’t act.
I’d like to focus my project on Julia Ward Howe, she was an abolitionist, social activist and poet. I want to focus on her writings after she published an anonymous book of confessional poems which outraged her husband who in return tried to stop her from writing. Her husband, who is referenced on several sites as more of a dictator than a husband, died in 1876 thats when she was able to change her identity and create a new life fighting for women’s suffrage. She had six children and published six books. I want to focus on those books that many have probably read her work, but don’t know its actually her work. ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ which is her most famous pieces will also be addressed. Her wikipedia page doesn’t have much on her, so I want to go over that as well. Her books Reminiscences, From the Oak to the Olive: A Plain Record of a Pleasant Journey, A Trip to Cuba, Is polite society polite?, Margaret Fuller (Marchesa Ossoli), From Sunset Ridge: Poems Old and New. Three of her daughters also wrote about her after her death in 1910 which is something I’d like to read more up on.
Men in the novel have a strong role when it comes to the final say, but women are dominate. Jack is very kind, comforting and caring towards Frado and his father shows some respect as well towards her. However, Mary and her mother are the bullies to Frado, the women are the angry and hateful ones to the poor young girl. Women seem to have a more dominant role because they’re the ones taken up in the house all day able to see what happens and act on it. The men seem to have a more caring and comforting role in the novel versus the men.