“I HAVE TO REMIND MYSELF TO BREATH”- A CRITICAL OVERVIEW ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS

Emily Bronte was a British novelist and poet, best known for her novel “Wuthering Heights” that was published in London in 1847. The novel is a masterpiece that deals with interlocked destinies of two families, the Earnshaws in Wuthering Heights and the Lintons in Thrushcross Grange. Bronte presents love as an embodiment on the part of Heathcliff and Catherine in the novel. The entire novel is structured around Bronte’s powerful depiction of their relationship. The novel also offers its readers a rich portrait of life in provincial English society during late 18th and early 19th century.

In 19th century, the position of women was inferior to men and they were regarded as secondary sex. In Britain people were usually conservative and women had little opportunity to be in touch with the society. In Victorian time, almost all novelists showed their concern about feminism but Emily did not directly call for free life and marriage like other novelists. She showed her consent on feminist actions through actions of the protagonist and development of the plot. Victorian women were expected to be weak, fragile, delicate and incapable of making decisions. Bronte breaks this stereotypical image of Victorian women by creating Catherine, who is wild, rebel, arrogant and knows how to make her decision possible.

Catherine’s rebellious nature can be traced in her offence against her father. When her father lives she loses favour with him, “his peevish reproofs wakened in her a naughty to provoke him; she was never so happy……..she defying us with her bold, saucy look……….and doing just what her father hated most”. This demonstrates her disobedience and refusal of the orders by his father. After her father’s death, her brother, Hindley inherits everything. Unlike her father, Hindley shows no affection for Catherine and hates Heathcliff. Her love suffers her brother’s strong opposition. Despite all his objections, Catherine still refuses to give up and joins hand with Heathcliff to rebel against Hindley, for the reason that Hindley deprives her of the privilege to enjoy the freedom of true love. Not only this, Bronte presents Catherine as a fighter for her rights in every circumstance. After getting married to Linton she behaves in a docile wife. When Catherine feels caged and without any right to her freedom she begins to rebel against her husband.  Catherine does not accept to be controlled by anyone. Confined by the family and deprived of the freedom to love, Catherine tries her best to resist the authority of a patriarchal institution. “Her eternal love for Heathcliff is the strongest opposition against her husband. Her struggle for true love is a symbol of the awakening of women consciousness in love and marriage” says Zhao Juan in his article on female consciousness. Catherine speaks Victorian women’s ambivalence, she longs for freedom and her true self.

Wuthering Heights presents male revenge, sexual suppression in such a way that women characters do not get enough scopes to be an individual figure. Kate Millet in her famous work “Sexual Politics” uses the term ‘patriarchy’ to describe the cause of women’s oppression. The expression was to show the dominance of male centric world over females. Similarly Catherine in the novel is shown in dilemma to whom to choose for her husband Edgar or Heathcliff. Due to immense pressure from her brother she ends up choosing Edgar. Another most important event is related with torture on Isabella in her own house by her husband. She is used as a tool in hands of Heathcliff just to take revenge on Earnshaws. Catherine grows up as parentless girl in a loosely organised household. Her encounter with male dominative figure, in the form of her brother’s tyranny, develops her capacity to rebellion and resistance. She thus becomes an assertive child associated with freedom and power rather than with domesticity. Catherine’s sudden transformation during her stay at Thrushcross Grange focuses on the way in which, “femininity is produced and reinforced rather than derived from ‘women’s nature’”, remarks B. Mahapatra. Bronte dramatizes Catherine’s character, as she becomes the object to win over. Catherine is destroyed by her inability to reconcile with conflicting images of herself, whereas her daughter Cathy constructs a new identity for herself.

The novel presents the changes that came in England with Industrial Revolution. The effects of this change can be seen in rise of middle class. Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights and his adoption into the Earnshaw family is a sign of time when the novel was written. The setting of the novel is very important. It is set in countryside and is also an isolated area. The setting shapes the characters in the novel. Like Heathcliff who starts the quest of revenge to make the children of his enemies suffers. With this, the novel also points to the class distinctions that were prevalent at that time. The Earnshaws and the Lintons both own states, whereas Heathcliff has nothing. Lintons call Heathcliff “quite unfit for a decent house”. Catherine only marries Edgar so that she could help Heathcliff rise up and place him out of her brother’s power. This shows the struggle for power, so that one could control the deprived easily. Class distinction can also be seen in the way servants are treated. People in serving class had little chance to better their status. Nelly Dean in the novel would not have expected that she would ever be treated as an equal by Earnshaws. The Lintons and Earnshaws, who represent the rural landed gentry, exercise enormous power over people from the lower classes. Power marks status that an aristocrat enjoys in the state.

Wuthering Heights has widely been approached through psychoanalytical reading by its critics. Sigmund Freud developed the idea that the human mind is dual in nature, divided into the conscious and the unconscious. He talks of superego as a part of human psyche, which stands outside the self. It is in the shape of a father or an ideal model or religious institution. Freud claims that the superego is forced upon the child through the influence of parents. In the novel Mr. Earnshaw’s absence of love for Catherine seems to harden her instead o influence her. Her reaction changes when she is repeatedly told that her father cannot love her, “that made her cry at first and then, being repulsed continually hardened her”. Catherine never seems to be influenced by her father. She even does not form her identity because of her father’s patriarchal nature. Freud also talks about id as another part of the human psyche, which stands for the unconscious, is in conflict with superego; it seeks desire and follows instincts. Bronte presents Heathcliff the male protagonist, who is shown in a trifle between love and revenge. Thomas Moser argues that “the primary traits which Freud ascribed to id apply perfectly to Heathcliff”. Heathcliff’s suffering throughout the novel has created a conflict between his conscious and unconscious mind. His sufferings results in adoption of defence mechanism as described by Freud, which are repression, denial, sublimation and projection. Therefore when he loses Catherine he decides to take revenge but at the end reconciles by marrying young Cathy and Hareton, thereby joining the two families.

In Wuthering Heights some character shows denial. Denial is a tool often used in psychoanalytical criticism. During her childhood Catherine is fond of Heathcliff. She claims her love by saying, “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rock beneath”. Catherine ends up in dilemma to choose Heathcliff or Edgar. This conflict leads her in denial by imagining that by marrying Edgar she will help Heathcliff to rise higher. Another character who shows denial is Isabella. Isabella marries Heathcliff but is aware of his love for Catherine. She does not want to see the fact that Heathcliff can never be in love with her though she acknowledges this. This denial leads Isabella to elope and marry Heathcliff without realizing that she is giving herself as a tool to Heathcliff to take revenge from Edgar.

According to Freud “repression is a means by which unacceptable thoughts and emotions which are in the conscious mind are suppressed in the unconscious mind”. Repression involves turning something away in an attempt to keep it out of conscious mind. For Heathcliff, Catherine is the only love he has known. When Catherine expresses her feelings to Nelly to marry Edgar, Heathcliff overhears this conversation. After listening this speech Heathcliff disappears from Wuthering Heights. His disappearance is an act of repression. His suffering of this knowledge has made him disappear in an attempt not to face the reality of being rejected by Catherine. He tries to repress the fact that Catherine has accepted another man rather than him who loved her.

Emily Bronte touches all the issues that were prevalent in Victorian times. Through the concept of love Bronte indulges the themes of love, society and revenge. Love is the core of the whole novel that makes it exceptional among other Victorian novels. Bronte with her exploration of love makes the younger generation united which was not possible in the earlier generation. The novel also portrays the problems faced by women and lower classes. Bronte creates a rich structure that keeps its readers connected to the text. The most significant element is the multiple narrations that are used. It is not a novel with one strand but with different voices that together weaves the story. Every character in the novel affects another character and consequently the events in the novel. “Love never dies but unites”, this quote fulfills the brilliant woven story by Emily Bronte.

Bibliography:

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Bedford Books, 1992.

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Viva Books. 2015

Boag , Simon. “Freudian Repression, the Common View and Pathological Science. Web. 7 April, 2011.

Forsgren, Sofy. Identification in Wuthering Heights. Lulea University of Technology. 2013

ZHAO Juan (2011) Female consciousness in Wuthering Heights. Institute of Foreign Languages, China.

Forsgren, Sofy. Identification in Wuthering Heights. Lulea University of Technology. 2013

Submitted by: Qamar Nazmeen (176)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feminist Criticism Of The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), the famous American novelist in the 1920s, he is known as the spokesman and laureate of the “Jazz Age”. The Great Gatsby, his masterpiece, is considered an American classic. It was first published in 1925, and is set on Long Island’s North Shore and in New York City in the summer of 1922. He displays the various aspects of the feminist philosophy by reflecting the opposing principles of society’s model through the very different women in The great gatsby.

Feminist criticism has been concerned to reveal how literary works have supported or challenged the assumptions of a male-dominated social order, often called a patriarchal society. The novel points out Tom’s views of patriarchal gender roles. He comments that women should confirm to the patriarchal gender roles for the stability of patriarchal family. In the novel, Tom seems to be the agent of male in patriarchal society who is quite hypocritical (saying one thing and doing another in nature). He maintains that these days people have forgotten by sneering the institution of family by involving in intermarriage (marriage between blacks and whites) but he keeps an extra-marital affair with Mrs. Wilson in the novel. In fact, he himself has contaminated the sacredness of marriage and the family. Similarly, Gatsby is of the opinion that daisy was his formal lover, and now she has been married to Tom, but today he has accumulated wealth and property so he can get his love back. His thinking shows the fact that in patriarchal society women are regarded as objects to be sold and bought rather than one to be respected.

The novel also shows the true picture of America in 1920s After War Period. Before the war, women did not have any freedom. They had to remain within the prescribed limit of male ideals but now they are quite free and are seen smoking and drinking like men. The society in the past would see it with doubtful eyes to those women involved in smoking and drinking, as they were regarded as exclusively male habits but in the novel women have openly challenged it. Main female characters in the novel like Daisy, Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson directly challenging their traditional roles as “kitchen creature”. They all prefer the excitement of night life than the more traditional enjoyments of home and children. There is only one child among them, Daisy’s daughter Pammy. Pammy is well-looked after by a nurse and affectionately treated by her mother. Daisy’s life does not revolve exclusively around her maternal roles. All three women Daisy, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson have openly challenged patriarchal sexual taboo. Jordan engages in pre-marital sex, and Daisy and Myrtle are engaged in extra-marital affair. These three women’s clothing and hairstyle are pretty modern unlike their mothers and grandmothers in the past and are equally guided by freedom seeking tendency. The patriarchal concept that women should behave modestly in public by avoiding liquor, cigarettes and immodest dancing is openly challenged by them in the novel. Hence this novel is full of the instances of the domination of females by males and the opposition of traditional male idealogy by the women.

Jordan Baker is one of the more masculine female character. She is a golfer, she’s direct, honest, straight and very cynical. In moments where most women in that time would hold their tongue Jordan takes charge. she is a direct kind of feminist. she does not take anything from anyone however she is still a woman in the 1920s therefore she is still held back by the social standards those women were forced to live by. Tom can’t believe Jordan’s family just let her run about all alone in her manner. Even Daisy, who is agitated by this remark says Nick will look after her. It is insanity to think a women in this time can be successful and independent on her own, but that is exactly what jordan baker is like. Daisy has two different sides, first is she is completely anti-feminist. she hopes her daughter to be a ”beautiful little fool” because she believes that is the best thing for her to be. she also lacked the independence to not marry Tom. Easily rolling over and be made up for her wedding by Jordan and another woman. In this view Daisy makes no choices. She just rolls along with whatever happens. Even agreeing with Tom In some aspects That Jordan needs a man like a man like nick to look after her. And on the other side she is a mastermind. She knows exactly how people view her and she understands the social standards of women at that time and she plays right into them. Marriying a rich and succesful polo player over the army man not out of him. Even Nick noticed the basic insincerity of her statement in hoping her daughter will be a fool. Daisy is subversive feminist.
Myrtle is a feminist but nothing compared to jordan or mastermind Daisy. she sees herself equal to everyone, man or woman she does not care. she will talk to everyone the same.she does not add more oe less respect to anyone. when she is drunk, loud and utterly inappropriate myrtle gives no thought to social norms. In this society everything is run by how you are perceived and Myrtle speaks exactly what is on her mind.

Nick carraway’s treatment of women is characterized by his relationships with Jordan. Nick attempts to exert control or power over her, but Jordan refuses to be controlled, leading to their relationships demise. With this in mind, it become easier to characterize the rest of Nick Carraway’s masculinity, notably his lack thereof in relation to Gatsby and, towardsthe beginning tom. Nick allows himself to be lead around and controlled, as the traditional cultural woman, being led to parties and told what to think. Nick is a veryy mallable creature until the end. From this point we can see carraway as a more feminine man, controlled by other men and unable to exert control over a woman.

In conclusion the women and men in this text are shown to be victims of social and cultural norms that they could not change. There is an attempt to redefine society and culture in a new way by gender relations and is shown to be a shaky path to the renegotiation of gender.Women in this novel do try to change the social norms, with Daisy wanting to be with Gatsby, who was not from “old money” and having a life with him, but conformed to the social norms because she felt she would be more comfortable and stable with a man she did not love.
There are layers of narrative voices, several climactic episodes or ambiguity, feminist critics might claim that this is a more feminine style of writing, despite being written by a man for a mixed audience.

Bibliography
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (plain text ed.). Project Gutenberg Australia.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. Cambridge University Press. 1991. p. liv.

Lois Tyson’s “Critical Theory Today – Second Edition”

Submitted By
Priyanka vengre ( 1434 )
Section – B

‘A Metaphorical Woman Writer’-Feminist approach to Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler was published by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in the year 1890. Ibsen’s plays, particularly ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘Hedda Gabler’, are perfect models of feminism as they address a universal issue that women faced in the nineteenth century, mainly the discrimination pertaining in society between men and women, and he endeavored to write about them by presenting how women were the actual victims of this discrimination. In other words, it looks like Ibsen prefers to use matters of feminism to compose his plays despite the fact he proclaims that his intention was to write about humanist problems that need awareness. This essay attempts to condemn how women were oppressed and stereotyped in the nineteenth century literature.

The play presents a comprehensive depiction of society, outlining class differences between the aristocratic and bourgeois world as well as critiquing the treatment of women. Although the Victorian era was a period of great transformation, women’s roles were confined in household duties with little or no opportunities for upliftment in society along with being the intermediaries of wealth in marriage. Both real or fictional, women were placed under the two stereotypical categories suggested in ‘The Mad Woman In the Attic’ by ‘Gilbert and Gubar’ of being the ‘angel’ and ‘monster‘ where  the former had to be self-sacrificing, spiritually inclined, possessing a sense of purity and devoted to household but the latter appeared to be powerful, self-absorbed and materialistic. Ibsen’s heroine Hedda Gabler is seen to subvert and redefine the roles prescribed by the patriarchal standards of womanhood.

She is perceived as a free spirited but directionless young woman who marries a dull and insensitive but a reputable scholar, Jurgen Tesman dreading spinsterhood. She is under tremendous stress to conform either of the two roles set for her. Everybody expects her to be happy in her newly married life however, throughout the play she expresses a feeling of being suffocated and dissatisfied by the societal expectations for her to play the role of ‘angel in the house’. Hedda embodies the dark image of women in literature, who behaves inexplicably, or display signs of rebellion against their gender role of a mother or wife. Thus, it seems that her denunciation of patriarchal virtues labels her as a ‘monster’ and a ‘mad’ woman. It is a title which is given to any woman who displays signs of rejection to her conventional role as a dutiful wife or a responsible mother, or her gender as a non-significant other. The misogynistic society placed women in spot below the world as a punishment for revolting to gain freedom and their unconventional acts.

Ibsen gave Hedda her maiden name as to show her separate from the institution of marriage and family. Out of this frustration, she claims to want for “once in her life to have power to shape a man’s destiny.” Michel Faucault’s essay ‘The Subject and Power’ as in the ‘In Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics’ states that “Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free.  By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reactions and diverse comportments, may be realized”.

He explains power as a relationship between people in which one affects another’s actions. It includes making a free subject do something he would have not done otherwise therefore power consists of restricting or altering someone’s will. Since society doesn’t allow her to control her own fate, she tries to mould other individuals by manipulating them.  She is an unpredictable and intelligent woman who wants to exercise her power over the men around her be it her husband or ex-lover. When Ejlert Loevberg, an alcoholic writer with whom she was once in love with returns to town, she relentlessly pushes him to relapse into drinking again. He looks upon her as a selfless angel with no desire other than to serve him. She tries to alleviate the monotony of her circumstances being suffocated in her marriage and possibly regaining some control of her own existence by encouraging Loevberg first to drink and then commit suicide through using his free will. Judge Brack on the other hand is able to apprehend her inner desires which for him only exist in a ‘whorish monster’ which can be a threat unless one is master of her.

Gilber and Gubar in explaining the ‘feminist poetics’ argue that until “the nineteenth century, writers were almost exclusively male and the act of writing was essentially and metaphorically an act of literary paternity.” Hedda burns the manuscript of Loevberg which is a metaphor of literary paternity. Furthermore, the play reveals Hedda as a ‘monster woman’ who acts wildly; whereas, Mrs.Elvsted presents the conventional ‘angel woman’ who sacrifices her life for others’ sake. She envies Thea Elvsted who is a paragon of the patriarchal morals. In burning the manuscript that Thea inspired Loevberg  to write, the metaphorical woman writer Hedda is monstrously destructing a text which propagates the suppression of women to certain patriarchally imposed roles in literature. Thus, it can be seen as accidental attempt at what Gilbert and Gubar call a “redefinition of self, art and society.” She pretends to be the angel in front of her husband by claiming that she burned Loevberg’s manuscript only out of immense love for Tesman and his career. She undertakes the role of a ‘monster’ so that she can express her agitation and opposition to circumstances in which she finds herself trapped. Her actions in no way can be described as moral or justifiable but are weapons of her rebellion. In ‘Towards a Feminist Poetics’, Elaine Showalter divides feminist criticism into sections which are ‘woman as a reader’ or ‘feminist critique’ and ‘woman as a writer’ or ‘gynocritics‘. On one hand Hedda Gabler is a male writer’s creation so can be placed under ‘woman as a reader’ but she can be interpreted even as a ‘metaphorical woman writer’ included within the realm of gynocritics as though unconsciously she is striving for transcendence and reform. She is not a writer in a literal sense but only as metaphorically.

In order to regain authority over others destiny she gives Loevberg a pistol to shoot himself and die ‘beautifully’, even after possessing his manuscript. However, Judge Brack compels her to be his mistress as he is aware of the reality behind Loevberg’s suicide. Unwilling to accept her life in its present aspect and unable to envisage the thought of being controlled by a man, she shoots herself in head signifying the triumphant rejection of patriarchy. Her quest for ‘self-definition’ is unspeakable as she isn’t aware about what she wants to be or do but is apparent about what she doesnt want to do or be that is ‘the angel of the house’.

Toril Moi in Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of ModernismArt, Theater, Philosophy ‘writes, “In the world of Hedda Gabler the everyday has turned poisonous, and idealism has become an incomprehensible anachronism….  In its late phase [to which Hedda Gabler belongs, however, Ibsen shows what the world looks like when we truly have to ‘live life without ideals.” She perceives her suicide as dauntless and idealist as it provides her escape from a world which Hedda has acknowledged as ‘trivial, trite, and a trap’ for herself.  She is seen as a heroic female who defies the norms of society and writes her own destiny as a metaphorical woman writer.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1)http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4093/4093-h/4093-h.htm

2)Toril Moi, Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 316-20

3)Michel Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’ ‘In Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics’

4)Gilbert and gubar, The mad woman in attic, The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

5) Showalter, Elaine. ‘Toward a Feminist Poetics’. The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature and Theory. Ed. Elaine Showalter. London: Virago, 1986. 125- 143

SUBMITTED BY- RIJU TEWARI

ROLL No. 36

SECTION B

‘Chokher Bali’ or ‘ A Grain of Sand – by Rabindranath Tagore

About the author –

Rabindranath tagore is possibly the most famous poet to come from India. For his beautiful, profound aand sensitive verses, which expressed his poetic thought, he was awarded the nobel prize in literature.

‘ Choker bali’ was written by Rabindranath Tagore as a serial in periodical Bangadarshan from 1902 to 1903. In 1903, it was published as a book. In its preface, Tagore wrote

” THE LITERATURE OF THE NEW AGE SEEKS NOT A NARRATE A SEQUENCE OF EVENTS, BUT TO REVEAL THE SECRETS OF HEART . SUCH IS THE NARRATIVE MODE OF CHOKHER BALI”.

Readings these words today a hundred and ten years after they were first written, i wonder if i am qualified to review a book by an author such as Tagore, and above all such a path breaking novel like this. However , having taken up this uneviable task ,all i can do is put my forth my thoughts on the book, and leave you to judge me, as well as the book of yourselves.

“CHOKHER BALI” literally means ‘ a grain of sand in the eye’  used as a metaphor for a constant irritating presence, the titile beautifully sums uo the story. The cover if the book is too well designed depicting just a hint of sensuousness, a thread which runs through the story as well.

Coming to the story itself, it is only after i read it, that i understood just why this is considered to be the herald of the ‘Modern Indian Novel’. There are no plots and happenings to speak of- just th characters and their lives entwining and separating. The narrator is a third person , but the characters speak for themsleves. There are a few detailed discriptions of the characters, but they come alive through their words and actions.

The characters are from a long time gone. A century is a long time indeed. And this century saw too much of change- political and idealogical and above all the technological. Yet as i read the book , i couldnot help compare the characters with people i knew, to the people in my life. We all know people like Mahendra and Bihari, Asha and Binodini , even Mahendra’s aunt and mother. The story could well b happening today in some parts of India, or even the world, so timeless does it feel. With few such characters , it was inevitable that i was immersed in them almost as soon i began the book. I wondered as i read, whom i would like the most, by the time i completed it. I had never thought i would identify myself with one of them- after all among the female characters, the mother and aunt were too old, Asha was simple and  uneducated and Binodini was a widow living in seclusion. It came as big surprise to me, that i identidied myself with both.

Binodini is obviously one of the strongest characters. She is well read, adept at household tasks, is beautiful,as well as model of perfection. Yet, her being a widow keeps her secluded and away from every tempatation. It is almost inevitable that a lonely woman reading as much, and as varird atuff as Binodini does, should be tempted to put her viles to work, to test her powe over people, to feel the passion she so craves to experiance.

Asha, is the complete opposite, – The meek, simple, illiterate and also unable to run a house like Mahendra’s. She has no control over events in her own life- whether it is her life with her relatives, or her marriage to Mahendra or her inability to handle the situationat Mahendra’s house- be it his passion or his mother’s antogonism.

There is a sparkling fire in Binodini’s heart . With that fire she tried to destroy a happy household. When she realised she is also destroying her feminine virtues and ethics in that fire, she could not stand anymore. Togore’s fondness in creating his female characters is renowed . “The feminine Individual” , Binodini is a image of miserable widow life tormented by the heinous customs of society. Nevertheless she bags society’s disgrace initially, she overcomes her flaws by turning down bihari’s wedding proposal and keeping her dignity alive in society’s terms.

Between the two women, it is Binodini we feel more for. After all, a women who takes he life in her own hands is to be appreciated and encouraged. Yet is is  asha who by the end of the book, comes acrosss as the stronger one. She is the one who handles he situation with a courage, which seems to come from nowhere. Yet ,when you think of the live of indian women, it is no inexplicible. Even the meekest of women gets courage, when she is left nothing more to lose.

The star of the book is Binodini. She is a strong female protagonist with shades of grey and very human flaws. She has needs and wants and desires and every intention of living a good life. I lived Binodini’s character she seemed so real. He way she acted and thought seemed so very much like how a real person could act and react. I can’t imagine a different reaction of anything but envy after seeing the happinesss and love of a newly married couple when she herself doomed to widowhood. She is truly a character a head of her times.

The novel thoroughly critices the merciless traditions and customs of the society against widows. The novel widely discussed about the human relations, human behaviour in different aspects of life. The movie version of the book was directed by Rituparno Ghosh with Aishwarya Roy and Prasanjit chatterji in lead roles.

” Tagore pillories the customs of perpetual mourning on the part of widows ,who were not allowed to remarry, who were consigned to seclusion and loneliness.

Togore wrote of it: “ i have always regretted the ending”.

Submitted by – Shivani

Roll no. – 1445

SEC- B

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JEANETTE

Jeanette Winterson’s [Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit] Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (henceforth OANOF) is a 1985 Bildungsroman (novel of development) centered on the life of Jeanette, a girl who is adopted and raised by a woman who happens to be a fundamentalist Christian. Jeanette’s mother believes in literal translations of the Bible, and she freely uses religious rhetoric to accommodate her black and white fashion of viewing the world. As Jeanette, the narrator, mentions early on in the novel, her mother “had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies” (3). Although Jeanette happens to feel greatly connected to her church and her church’s teachings, this fidelity towards the supposed perfection of the church becomes challenged as she realizes that she is sexually and romantically drawn towards women. OANOF focuses most of its attention on the tensions and frictions that spark when Jeanette’s sexual life clashes with her religious life, and on the drastic measures that her church takes to drive the “demon” of “unnatural passions” away from her. Although Jeanette’s development and moral growth is most certainly the focus of this novel, a lot of the content is focused on her strange relationship with her mother, and even more so, on the mother’s blind and ritualistic devotion to her church. The mother desperately tries to shield Jeanette from evils, especially those associated with gender and sexuality. For instance, when Jeanette develops a friendship with an ostensibly lesbian couple that runs a paper shop, the mother soon forbids Jeanette from going to that store because there was a rumor that “they dealt in unnatural passions” (7). Seeing as the mother doesn’t speak to her daughter about matters of gender, sexuality, and the body, Jeanette naively believes that “unnatural passions” are referring to the fact that the couple puts chemicals in their sweets. This desire to protect Jeanette from evil, in addition to the mother’s penchant for explaining phenomena using religious rhetoric, makes it increasingly difficult for Jeanette to adjust to the outer world. For instance, Jeanette goes deaf for three months in the novel. Rather than taking Jeanette to the hospital, the mother begins to inform everyone that Jeanette is “in a state of rapture” (23), and she prevents people from speaking to her. It is Miss Jewsbury, a closeted lesbian, who brings Jeanette to the hospital to be treated for her condition. Jeanette realizes that her condition is due to biological processes rather than spiritual rapture, and it is in this moment that she begins to question the perfection and infallibility of her church: Since I was born I had assumed that the world ran on very simple lines, like a larger version of our church. Now I was finding that even the church was sometimes confused. This was a problem. But not one I chose to deal with for many years more. (27) It is in this moment that Jeanette begins her process of development and maturation: it is the moment in which she realizes that her mother doesn’t have all of the right answers, and neither does the church. Thus, rather than resorting to donning the mother’s ideological perspective of the world, which consists of viewing things as either good or bad, Jeanette must learn to challenge herself to explore areas of contradiction and ambiguity that do not necessarily conform with the notions of right or wrong. It is during Jeanette’s time time at the hospital that that the motif of oranges becomes heavily introduced into the narrative, for her mother constantly sends her oranges along with some “get better soon” letters when she doesn’t have the time to visit Jeanette. Throughout the novel, the only fruit that Jeanette’s mother will give to her is the orange, for it is “The only fruit” (29). Little is said as to why oranges are deemed to be the only fruit worthy of consumption. However, the meaning behind the orange is not necessarily based on the fruit itself, but rather, on how the fruit is used. First and foremost, oranges become a way of further characterizing Jeanette’s mother, showing how she perceives the world categorically, and showing how she desires to limit the options that Jeanette can have. Furthermore, since oranges are the only fruit that are validated from the mother’s perspective, all of other fruit go on to lack legitimacy. Much later on in the novel, when Jeanette gets slightly ill, her mother brings her a bowl of oranges, and the following scenario takes place: I took out the largest and tried to peel it. The skin hung stubborn, and soon I lay panting, angry and defeated. What about grapes or bananas? I did finally pull away the other shell, and, cupping both hands round, tore open the fruit. (113) In this context, it becomes a little more clear that oranges are representing either gender or heterosexuality. By questioning why she can’t have other fruit, Jeanette puts into question the limitations that are imposed on her in terms of her choices and preferences. Notice that she has trouble accessing the orange’s pulp, which can symbolize the difficulty that Jeanette has towards complying with a simplistic, limited, heteronormative view of the world. It would be much easier for her to eat grapes or bananas, however, we observe that Jeanette’s mother is still coercing her to struggle with oranges. The entire spectrum of fruit, in this interpretive view, would go on to represent the entire spectrum of gender–the mother’s efforts to impose oranges as the only good fruit go on to represent efforts to approach a single gender or sexual orientation has valid and legitimate. As can be expected, the mother’s views toward fruit also apply towards her views on gender and sexuality: “I remembered the famous incident of the man who’d come to our church with his boyfriend. At least, they were holding hands. ‘Should have been a woman that one,’ my mother had remarked” (127). This leads Jeanette to one of her many philosophical musings, in which she recognizes the fact that her mother is unable to interpret the world without resorting to the use of binaristic thinking. Instead of accepting the fact that these two men are, in due course, simply men, she resorts to approaching one of the men as a woman. But, as Jeanette remarks: This was clearly not true. At that point I had no notion of sexual politics, but I knew that a homosexual is further from a woman than a rhinoceros. Now that I do have a number of notions about sexual politics, this early observation holds good. There are shades of meaning, but a man is a man, wherever you find it. (128) The desire to steer away from convention and normativity is a staple of this novel. Just as Jeanette desires another fruit besides an orange, she also desires to be romantically involved with someone besides a man. Jeanette’s penchant for non-normativity is even expressed in her artistic inclinations and projects. While Jeanette is in school, she truly strives to win a prize in the school’s various artistic competitions. While at first she loses these competitions because of her adherence to religious doctrine, she notices that she still continues to lose competitions even when she presents projects that are non-religious in their themes. For instance, in an Easter Egg painting competition, Jeanette creates an elaborate diorama that recreates a scene from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. However, she loses to a a student who covers eggs in cotton in order with the title of “Easter Bunnies” (48). Jeanette realizes that even though her masterpiece was definitely the best project submitted to the competition, she loses simply because she steers away from convention. Rather than creating a habitual Easter-themed project for the competition, she strives to be different and creative, which essentially makes Jeanette a queer character in many other aspects besides her sexuality. As I mentioned previously, Jeanette’s queerness certainly causes her a lot of pain and heartache, which is perhaps epitomized when she is publicly accused for being a lesbian while in church. The church members deem that Jeanette and her girlfriend, Melanie, have engaged in homosexual activity because they are possessed by demons. This accusation sparks a lot of commotion in the church, and thus, one of the most confusing and convoluted sections of this novel takes place. After the accusation, Jeanette escapes the church and goes to Miss Jewbury’s home. Miss Jewbury does her best to comfort Jeanette, and out of the blue, the two have sex: “We made love and I hated it and hated it, but would not stop” (106). When Jeanette returns home after her encounter with Jewbury, the tension of the novel escalates to an unprecedented degree as members of her church congregation perform an intense exorcism on her. The members stay from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. “praying over [her], laying hands on [her], urging [her] to repent [her] sins before the Lord” (107). The exorcism ultimately culminates with Jeanette being locked up in a room for 36 hours without food, and she only claims to be repentant in order to get access to food. The resolution and “conclusion” of the novel focus on Jeanette becoming closely involved with the church as she also begins a relationship with a new church member named Katy. Contrary to the beliefs of her congregation, Jeanette firmly believes that her spiritual and sexual life are able to coexist. She is soon caught in a compromising situation with Katy, and her mother proceeds to kick her out of their home. This so-called failure pushes Jeanette to move to a city and start a new life–while unfortunately being deprived of her family and her history. She eventually returns to her old home to visit her mother, who seems to express a degree of ambivalence towards Jeanette–they do talk, but they never discuss Jeanette’s love life. The conclusion, however, shows a surprising revelation: Jeanette’s mother starts its first mission with black people–and she serves them pineapple because “she thought that’s what they ate” (172). Because of this, Jeanette’s mother ends up eating many dishes with pineapple in it, while claiming, philosophically, that “oranges are not the only fruit” (172). Thus, while the novel certainly ends in a sad note, indicating that many people still believe that Jeanette is possessed, the mother’s acceptance of other fruit leads the reader to believe that perhaps the mother is not viewing the world in the conceptually simplistic fashion that she used to. Just like white and black communities are starting to coexist in the mother’s church, the mother’s black and white conceptual distinctions start to blur.

Submitted by

PRIYANKA

Roll no : 640

SEC ; B

“This is what it means to be woman in this world” – A Thousand Splendid Suns in feminist perspective.

Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a masterful narrative which seamlessly combines the two compelling tales of Mariam and Laila with the deeply troubled history of Afghanistan over the past thirty years.These two not only endure the brutalities of their husband Rasheed, but also the appalling atrocities of Taliban. It is the role of women that Hosseini has chosen to explore in this novel and does so vividly through the stories of Mariam and Laila, two women separated by generation but united by an unbreakable bond of friendship. This essay is going to explore how far does Hosseini succeed in portraying the women suffering and their emancipation.

In a speech given at Book Expo America on 2 June, 2007 (later added as Postscript to the novel) Hosseini says,

“I wanted to write another love story set in Afghanistan but this time a mother/daughter tale and about the inner lives of two struggling Afghan women. I suppose there were some easier roads I could have gone down, but I chose this one because, both as a writer and as an Afghan, I could’nt think of a more riveting or important or compelling story than the struggle of women in my country.”

While we are talking about the oppression of women in Afghanistan it is necessary to delve into the history of this oppression. Before the origin of Taliban, Kabul was a hub of female autonomy but the rural Afghanistan, especially south and east along the border with Pakistan, was relatively a patriarchal tribal area where men decided the fates of women. There women always lived in confinement. They wore burqa and rarely went to school beyond the age of twelve. Women there had no choice in marriage, instead they were told when and whom they will marry. Life was a struggle for women in Afghanistan well before Taliban. But it became all the more unbearable with the outbreak of war. Not only were their fundamental human rights violated but they also suffered from gender based abuse. They were abducted and sold as slaves, forced into marriage to militia commanders, forced into prostitution and raped. This is the historical backdrop against which A Thousand Splendid Suns has been written.

Hosseini’s first attack on the patriarchal institutions comes through the figure of Mariam’s epileptic mother Nana. She used to work as a housekeeper in Jaleel’s house and is cast off by Jaleel after she gets pregnant with his illegitimate child. Jaleel already has three wives and nine children and he is quite well off in his business.Hosseini brings forth the double standards of a patriarchal society that blames everything on women when Nana remembers that Jaleel had accused her of forcing herself on him and she adds, “You see? This is what it means to be a woman in this world.” When Nana thinks that Mariam has left her to live with Jaleel, her love for Mariam and her fear of one more rejection induce her to commit suicide.

Nana is the one who gives lessons of subservience and endurance to Mariam. It seems that she acts like the patriarchal manuals of nineteenth cetury Britain that contained guidelines for young girls on how they should be submissive and dependent on the male authority. At one point she says, “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.” Nana’s character is important in that it is she who influences Mariam’s psyche. Her lessons stay with Mariam throughout her life. Her biggest lesson that women should learn only one skill, that is tahamul or endurance keeps Mariam bound in an abused marriage.

Mariam sees her independence and emancipation in her father, Jaleel. For her Jaleel is the link to outer world and also an ideal father. While she is constantly abused as harami  by Nana,  she believes Jaleel loves her unconditionally. In this father-daughter relationship, there is some hope of escape from the extreme severity of patriarchal institutions. But soon she gets disillusioned with this image of her father when he lets her sleep outside his house in Herat. After Nana’s death Jaleel takes her in only to be married off to a man much older than her. She is sent away as she is the walking, breathing embodiment of his shame.

After marriage  Mariam shifts to Kabul, the most liberal place in Afghanistan. But her life does not liberate her. Rasheed comes out to be a staunch patriarch. ‘Here women only tolerate oppression, cook and are children producing machines.’(Sushmita Banerjee) Hosseine vividly brings home what life is like for women in a society in which they are valued only for reproduction. Once she has suffered a series of miscarriages, Mariam’s marriage becomes a prison. She suffers from six abortions in four years of her marriage and Rasheed’s despotism makes her life insufferable. She realizes that Rasheed’s love and affection turn to indifference and then to animosity. In one of the most disturbing scene, Rasheed forcefully makes Mariam eat stones. This reflects the kind of atrocities a woman faces when she fails to produce a child, and in this case, Rasheed wanted a male child.

Hosseini’s depicts the hypocritical use of the institution of religion for subjugating women through Rasheed. He is a flip-flopper who misinterprets religious teachings to his own use. While he forces Mariam into having sex with him by saying there is no shame in it as this is what all people do, even the Prophet and his wives, but when it comes to observing fast during the month of Ramadhan, he barely fasts for some days. In the figure of Rasheed, Hosseini tries to represent an upholder of patriarchal values who belives being “modern” is a sin and defines a woman with respect to a man. What we infer is that the patriarchal system itself enslaves and degrades women, for it institutionalizes and valorizes subject-object dichotomy. Woman, according to Simone de Beauvoir, “is defined and differentiated with respect to man…she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he the Absolute – she is the other.”

Mariam, due to her mother’s teachings of resilience misinterprets Rasheed’s possessiveness for his protectiveness. She thinks that he feels a kind of purity in their relationship and, therefore, is guarding her honour by not letting her mix up in the society. It is problematic in the sense that Mariam refuses to see the reality behind her husband’s protectiveness. She even makes up an explaination for Rasheed’s possession of porn magazines in her head. She believes that as a man he has his own needs  ‘and what entitled her anyway, a villager, a harami, to pass judgement?’ Mariam’s shame at being illegitimate makes her unable to stand for herself.

We can say that all Afghan women suffer unanimously at the hands of patriarchy but it is also true that due to the help of progressive monarchs such as King Amanullah, and his wife Queen Soraya, Kabul has its history of financially independent modern women. In the novel, Laila, free spirited daughter of the teacher Hakim initially lives a vivacious life. Hakim, Laila’s father is Rasheed’s opposite. He is a husband who respects his wife and a gentle intellectual who has suffered much. Hakim’s warning to his daughter, “ A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated” is the antithesis of Rasheed’s laconic comment to Mariam, “ A woman’s face is her husband’s business only.” Unlike other parents in his neighbourhood Hakim wishes to educate Laila instead of giving her in marriage just after puberty. It is reflected in one of the revealing passages of the novel when he talks to Laila about the education of women in Afghanistan:

“Women have always had it hard in this country, Laila, but they’re probably more free now, under the communists, and have more rights than they’ve ever had before…But it’s true,it’s a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. And you can take advantage of that, Laila.”

Hosseini brings out yet another facet of war torn Afghanistan in the figure of Laila’s mother, Fariba. Two of her sons have gone to join the war and she is always sorrowful. The war has affected the normal people’s lives in this way. She has suffered a lot due to her sons’ absence. This is conveyed by her words when she says to Laila, “In here. What’s in here. You just don’t know.”

The veiling of women is one of the most controversial themes among patriarchal ideologies of all time. Robert J.C. Young has written “For many  westerners, the veil is a symbol of patriarchal Islamic societies in which women are assumed to be oppressed, subordinated and made invisible. On the other hand, in Islamic societies, and among many Muslim women in non-Islamic societies, the veil (hijab) has come to symbolize a cultural and religious identity, and women have increasingly  chosen to cover themselves as a matter of choice.” In this novel, the burqa, a form of veil is given the central position. Rasheed who acts like a domestic Taliban orders both his wives to wear burqa. Initially Mariam experiences some difficulty while wearing it ‘ stepping on the hem and stumbling.’  On the other hand, Mariam also finds the burqa comforting as ‘it was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers.’ When Laila, the educated girl wears burqa, the situation is similar. One of the harshest gender apartheid in Afghanistan was carried out by the Taliban men who interpreted life only in the darkness of the ancient Sharia laws and self constructed absurd laws, like women were not allowed to laugh, cosmetics were banned and all sorts of entertainment was banned.

Laila has a rebellious streak from her childhood. That is why she maintains her childhood friendship with Tariq even in her teens when she knows their relationship is being scrutinized by the people of her village. The two friends have fallen in love and Laila does not refrain herself from secretly kissing and making love with him. It is an act of daring in such a conservative society where women were ordered to wear burqa. The ultimate act of transgression is performed when Tariq is about to leave Afghanistan. Laila loses her virginity but she feels no shame in it.

The novel strikingly reveals what can be the fate of spirited and rebellious women like Laila in Afghanistan. She is left an orphan at the age of fourteen due to violence brought about by the Soviets and the Mujahideen. As a result, she meets the same fate as Mariam. The women’s only hope of affection or solidarity is with one another, and they survive not just physically but also emotionally by putting their faith in each other and in their love for Laila’s children. By virtue of common suffering, bond between Mariam and Laila gets stronger. They enjoy the moments spent with each other when Rasheed leaves for work. They feel relieved when they have the house to themselves, otherwise it gets claustrophobic in his presence. Laila provides the sanctuary that Mariam was missing through the love she and her children share with her. They give her a family, a sense of belonging, and a purpose. It is this bond that eventually leads Laila to slap Rasheed when he is beating Mariam. Laila who has been raised with a strong sense of self by her father, does not submit to her circumstances as Mariam does. When she does, it is because she has something to gain by doing so as we see when she takes Rasheed as a husband, but has plans to leave for Pakistan. She keeps on stealing some money from Rasheed and collects it to eventually leave with her daughter.

Gayatri Spivak mentions that the subaltern cannot speak or can the subaltern speak? In any country when the oppressors become extremists, the subalterns do rise and speak.  Mariam performs the final act of protest by murdering Rasheed to save Laila. She finally realizes that all these years she had been a devout wife. She had never decieved him or been malicious towards him. She realizes, “Had she not given this man her youth? Had she ever justly deserved this meanness?” For Mariam this act is an act of liberation from Raheed’s forbearing presence in her life. She does not regret killing him and surrenders herself. Hosseini, thus depicts Mariam’s growth from a meek submissive wife to a rebellious mother who acts in order to save her children. She fully accepts the consequence of each step that leads to her execution, even as Laila begs her to change her mind. In response to Laila’s pleading, Mariam is assured and concise, “Think like a mother Laila jo. Think like a mother. I am.”

Mariam sacrifices her life for Laila and her children. At the end she emerges as a strong woman who has no regrets about what she has done and is ready to face the consequences. It seems that Hosseini’s women, much like the country of Afghanistan itself, are under the influence of outside forces. They have a very  little chance of influencing their own lives and futures. Yet neither of them are either helpless or passive. They make choices and accept any kind of  consequences, be it hopeful of tragic. Mariam’s sacrifice is instilled into Laila’s purpose and the reconstruction of Kabul.

Hosseini, thus portrays the female emancipation in Mariam’s courageous act and in Laila’s decision to return back to her people in Kabul and work for the rebuilding of her society. Laila finally comes to realize ‘every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief. And yet she sees that people find a way to survive, to go on.’ Laila’s realization that Mariam chose this fate not only for her but chose it for Laila’s well-being gives Laila a sense of purpose. This allows her to grow beyond the tragedies she has experienced and to choose to devote her life to others and to something as seemingly impossible as reconstruction of Kabul and Afghanistan.

 

Bibliography:

www.theguardian.com/books/2007/may/19/featuresreviews.guardianreview21

www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/books/29kaku.html?referer=

Thompson, Harvey : ‘ A Thousand Splendid Suns: The plight of Afghan women                            only partially depicted’- penguin publication

www.openlettersmonthly.com/useful-disasters/

www.washingtonpost.com/2007/05/17

Stuhr, Rebecca : ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns: Sanctuary and Resistance’- University of Pennsylvania, Penn libraries.

Choudhury, Antara : From Margins to the Centre: A Study Of the Subaltern in Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns  – Assam University

Submitted by

Sadia Prince(560)

THE ANTI FEMINIST CHARACTER OF BELLA SWAN IN THE NOVEL, “THE TWILIGHT SAGA”BY STEPHENIE MEYER.

The four books in the series quite simply detail an old fashioned, traditional romance narrative- Bella Swan and Edward Cullen fall in love, marry, have a child and live happily ever after. The series was written by a woman, from the perspective of a first person, female protagonist. However, despite these deceptive advantages, the central character of Bella Swan is overwhelmingly regressive in regards to feminist ideology.

Simone De Beauvoir’s ground breaking theory The Second Sex carefully analysed the milestone positions of women’s lives in Western society from De Beauvoir’s feminist, existential viewpoint. As one of feminism’s core texts, De Beauvoir’s writings have inspired hundreds upon thousands of feminists, sparking activism and eventual social change. De Beauvoir consistently challenged traditional and unequal gender roles in The Second Sex– the same damaging gender roles that Stephenie Meyer blithely resuscitates in the Twilight saga. De Beauvoir’s theory can be directly applied to the characters in Twilight, and it is for this reason that this paper argues that in terms of gender equality, the Twilight saga ignores the progress of feminism obtained in the past sixty years, and is instead framed in an almost archaic

There has been much debate surrounding the Twilight saga, in particular the character of Bella Swan, her personality traits, and whether she is a good role model to the thousands of young women who declare themselves devotees of the series. Many literary reviews of the series label Bella Swan a heroine. By definition, a heroine performs heroic acts- and consistently so. A heroine is noted, and celebrated, for her courage and daring actions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a heroine as ‘a woman distinguished by exalted courage, fortitude, or noble achievements’. Bella Swan exhibits none of these qualities. On the contrary, Stephenie Meyer’s protagonist displays very little courage, demonstrates very little fortitude, and is constant in need of reassurance or protection from the dominant male figures in her life. Bella Swan spends the majority of the Twilight saga standing precariously on the side-lines of the action, in full faith that men will fight her battles for her. Throughout the Twilight saga, she is constantly described as fragile and breakable, her victim hood consequently exploited and fetishist.

As Bella is passed from care of man to man, she becomes acutely aware of this fact. Halfway through Eclipse, she notes that ‘Edward insisted again on delivering me to the border line like a child being exchanged by custodial guardians’ (282). This is a patriarchal theme that is instrumental to the narrative, and Bella, a teenager on the cusp of womanhood, is constantly infantile by the men around her.

Underneath the hyperbole, Twilight is an idealized love story. Stephenie Meyer’s brand of love is one that renders women incapable of looking after themselves, in constant need of restraint, control and protection, and ultimately stripped of their autonomy. It is a brand of love that requires a woman to renounce her former life and assimilate herself into her husband’s world. In Bella Swan’s case, her transformation into a vampire by the fourth book in the saga (Breaking Dawn) requires her to shed every aspect of her human self into order to live with the Cullen family forever.

A significant proportion of the series idolizes Bella as the perfect woman child – fragile, frail and weak, in need of constant watch and protection. Meyer has spoken out against the criticism herself, claiming that the character of Bella is far from misogynistic.

Bella’s life choices are already decided for her. Her ultimate decision, to become a vampire, is less proactive, and more of the surrender of a woman in love.

The definitive and staggeringly entrenched inequalities in Bella and Edward’s relationship prove this- Edward does not treat Bella as an equal, she understands this and gladly accepts it. Bella does not challenge regressive gender roles, she actively embraces them. This character is not progressive by any means.

Meyer eagerly intertwines the notions of sexual lust and bloodlust.  The Twilight saga’s narrative actively encourages the regressive ideology of women as prey and men as predators, painting the notion in a dreamy haze of desire, as well as romanticising the possible violent consequences.  Meyers ‘good’ vampires are described as vegetarians because they feed on animals instead of humans. They hunt. They stalk and pinpoint prey.  And then, they feed.

Simone DE Beauvoir’s The Second Sex also encompasses this school of thought. Framing men as predators and women as prey renders woman the ever passive object.

In the Twilight saga, human beings are weak, inferior, breakable and in need of protection. Bella Swan’s simpering tendencies can easily be dismissed by Twilight fans as an important requirement- she is human whilst most of her counterparts are vampires. But, taking Carol J Adams’ critical theory into account, there’s a case to be made that suggests Meyer’s constructed gender roles go further than biological sex, depicting weak, fallible humans as female, and strong, indestructible vampires as male: ‘It was against the rules for normal people — human people like me and Charlie — to know about the clandestine world full of myths and monsters that existed secretly around us.

When Bella Swan is bestowed with that vampiric gift- she chooses to restrain herself. When she is human and exerts her autonomous, if somewhat passive, sexuality, she is restrained. When she finally reaches equality with her partner as vampire, when she reaches male (vampire) status in the book, and is presented with the opportunity to prey on females (or humans) she chooses not to.

Because, woven finely through the narrative of the supernatural, romance, vampires, werewolves, family troubles and friendships, is a story that focuses intently on first love and a teenage girl’s reaction to her own sexual feelings- even if she does find these feelings awakened by an external, male source:

We’re living in a time when simply talking about women’s pleasure is taboo in itself and is considered dangerous by the virginity movement, since that kind of discussion frees women’s sexuality from its restrictive only-for-procreation, only-when-married, only-when-straight boundaries .

Bella is ultimately a malleable female character constructed by the men around her. As subversive to the traditional vampire narrative that it is- the Twilight saga does not stray from said boundaries. Meyer offers girls the fantasy of a male gaze that is intense, constant, and faithful.

In an age where the fight for gender equality is still on going, Bella’s primary aim throughout the Twilight saga is to lose herself, and become Edward