In the epic poem of “Beowulf,” Grendel’s mother is portrayed as a strong, evil-fighting woman. Yet, with the superiority of men, women are also looked down upon and withheld from several rights of passages and freedoms. In Puritan times, women were regarded as only being useful for their domestic abilities and child-bearing capabilities. As time moves forward, several outstanding women have worked to gain their own rights and fight for equality with men. A crucial part of each women’s rights movement is the first-hand perspective from a female poet or author.
These beliefs of staying within their boundaries stick as fears in the mind of women so by the time adulthood approaches, they have already molded themselves to fit those beliefs. There are numerous works of literature that have given life to women in their fight for becoming free. One example, “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, tells the story of Elisa and her struggle to break out of the feminine world. The idea of becoming more than an ideal wife strive women to push their boundaries as an attempt to gain power in a man’s world hoping, to be recognized for their strengths. Discrimination has always given men greater power over women, who are ideally supposed to sit within their limited boundaries.
In old age “[Cherifa] is housebound, As she sets her voice free, she sets herself free again; what nostalgia will cause her voice to fail presently”. Through these two novels, we’re able to see the quandaries that women must face when modernity and old customs come head to head. Both of these women remain brave and to try to sustain their new found freedoms, despite any difficult encounters. It is these women with their fierce ideals that would make them pioneers for all women liberation movements.
Feminism in the novel The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood is a prominent theme. This novel represents the morals and horrors of a vision of feminism, which is sometimes taken to the extremes. Women’s rights have been downgraded and as a result of this women are used to bear children and are constantly watched by the eye. The Handmaids are considered powerful figures in the novels’ society while living in a dystopia of cultural feminism, which cause them to be degraded women with a loss of identity. The powerful figures in The Handmaids Tale would be considered the Commander’s wives or the Aunts.
Throughout history, society often places women inferior to men, causing women to be predisposed to obeying their husband without a second thought. However, when a woman begins to question the idea of loyalty and obedience, her eyes are often opened to the mold that she is encased in and becomes determined to break through and develop her self-potential. In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the main female character is put through a revelation that changes her life forever. Through their quest to find their own freedom and individuality, Nora Helmer, from A Doll’s House, and Edna Pontellier, from The Awakening, each uniquely discovers themselves. Since the beginning of the play, Nora was very loyal to her husband and even told him how she would “not think of going against your [his] wishes” (Ibsen 6).
There are many hints to Nora’s awareness to a women’s struggle and recognition for their strength, and intelligence. Nora speaks of the unnoticed sacrifices thousands of women make on a daily basis for others. As it is for most women who are starting over Nora, has no carefully thought out life direction. Nora is acting out of respect for herself. She realizes the only way she will ever be happy is by finding out who she really is.
Even with her own limits and the public limits, Woolf never gave up on her writing. Virginia left a legacy for women to look up to. She is a strong, independent, fearless woman who went against the normal so she could become a writer. Even though critics may disagree with everything she says and stands for. “The effect of thee repressions is still clearly to be traced in women’s work, and the effect is wholly to the bad” (Johnson 25).
The repressive society has taught a woman to be culturally silent, and thus this act of writing is for her essentially an act of breaking her silence. These women writers are aware that hundreds of thousands of women are discriminated against merely for being women. Such an insight into the marginalized feminine consciousness is provided by Manju Kapur’s Difficult Daughters. Every woman wants to differ from the stereotypes based on sex but to win over the oppressive forces she must manifest courage and uprightness. Manju Kapur, as a keen observer, explores many aspects of feminine sensibilities in her novel, Difficult Daughters.
An intelligent, stubborn, and free-spirited character. One that many women today connect with and see as being Jane Austen’s most feministic character. The other women in Pride and Prejudice do not like Elizabeth very much. She does not fit the social norm of that time. Being lady-like, keeping her thoughts to herself, and willing to get married as soon as she can.
With an author ahead of her time, Kate Chopin challenged the ideas of how women should be seen socially. Chopin frankly portrays women as emotional, intelligent and sexual beings. While it might seem that Chopin offers positive examples of female characters, in actuality they are complicated, messy and ultimately negative. All of her main female character seem to experience self-awareness, something very important at that time period because while women had feelings and thoughts, they weren't recognized by society, these feelings of independence and discovery are often temporary, still bound to social limitations. In some cases, it requires the Chopin brings attention to women's internal struggles with themselves and who they are told to be in a society that dismisses female autonomy, she doesn't do anything to solve or change them.