Margaret Atwood in her novel Surfacing and Toni Morrison in her novel Song of Solomon require their heroines to pass through a stage of self-interpretation as a prerequisite for re-inventing the self. This stage in the feminine journey manifests a critical act typically absent in the traditional male journey, and one that places Atwood and Morrison's heroines at odds with the patriarchal community. If authors of feminine journeys meet the requirements set out by feminist critics like Dana Heller, then we must also provide a method for interpreting the texts that will be palatable for critics from the patriarchy. Otherwise we perpetuate an hostility between the camps that debilitates everyone.
The typical male hero's task has been to return to his community and share the boon of his journey. That boon may be treasure badly needed for the culture's economics, it may be new wisdom needed for the proper dispensation of justice and national confidence, it may be the return to fecundity through the defeat of a monster who has been imposing an impotence on the land. Whether the boon is economic or spiritual, under the monomythic model, the stories credit the male's efforts and de-emphasize the heroine's roles in the boon's attainment.
The typical heroine's journey, however, existed at best as a sub-plot to the male's effort. Her role in the quest "is not meant for her active heroism," as Dana Heller says, "but for her passive submission to a hero" (10). Thus, if she didn't die along the quest, she married the hero. As his spouse, she helped him dispense his boon in the typical feminine manner of caregiver, lover or innocent. Often, the...
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... New York: Ballantine Books, 1972.
Brenner, Gerry. "Song of Solomon: Rejecting Rank's Monomyth and Feminism," Critical Essays on Toni Morrison. Reserve Shelf, University of Montana, 1993.
Fabre, Genevieve. "Genealogical Archeology or the Quest for Legacy in Song of Solomon," Critical Essays on Toni Morrison. Reserve Shelf, University of Montana, 1993.
Heller, Dana. "The Feminization of Quest Romance." Reserve Shelf, University of Montana, 1993.
Hoy, David Cousens. The Critical Circle: Literature, History and Philosophical Hermeneutics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Books, USA, 1978.
O'Shaughnessy, Kathleen. "Life, life, life, life: the Community of Chorus in Song of Solomon," Critical Essays on Toni Morrison. Reserve Shelf, University of Montana, 1993.
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