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Gender in Literature

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People who are different, who go against the status quo, are those that receive labels like outcasts, weird, or freaks. Characters that are different however, are attractive to audiences. It is their defiance and ability to see through the cracks of stereotypical society and rebel against them that can peak curiosity within a reader. There are people in the world who believe that they alone in their thoughts or actions; they can find common ground- or inspiration through a character. These outcasts are the ones that trigger emotions within the audience, ranging all over the emotional spectrum: from anger to shock to envy. Many authors, especially those who lived and wrote during times of repression of groups and urges for social change, wrote “outcast” characters that were shocking to the time. Kate Chopin and Sandra Cisneros, two authors from two separate eras of history, portray the main characters in their stories as outsiders within their respective environments. In Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), Edna Pontellier struggles with the demands that society expects her to fulfill. In Cisneros story, “Woman Hollering Creek” (1991), Cleófilas has moved to a new country with a new husband, and struggles to find her place between two separate cultures, while dealing with an abusive relationship. Chopin and Cisneros present their characters as outcasts by contrasting them to societal norms of the authors’ respective time through the use of point of view, structure, symbols and overall themes.
Outsiders have deviated from, or refuse to conform to, the social “norm” and can therefore be subjected to discrimination. The clinical definition of an outsider, from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “a person who does not belong to or is not acce...

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...oice again (Norton 1595).
Kate Chopin and Sandra Cisneros’s stories were tales of women fighting for their rights and their desires. Edna was searching for a way to achieve self-fulfillment that she couldn’t find with her upper-class lifestyle. She no longer wished to conform to societal ideals and restrictions, she wanted to live how she wished, and with that she became separated from society. However, it was her ultimate suicide that gave her the ultimate moment of liberation. Cleófilas struggled with an abusive husband and a culture valued and stood for different ideals. She was resentful of the outcast title; she wished to belong to a society that she didn’t fit with. Through the authors’ use of structure, point of view, symbols and continuing themes, they create two unique characters that experience the loneliness of being an outsider due to gender and/or race.
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