Gender and Literature

Attics do not house humans. They are wasted space. Women are considered half monsters — and they are wasted. A woman inhabits the attic; literally and metaphorically, she becomes a madwoman, both as a writer and a character.

The fact is, Nathaniel Hawthorne is male; and men don’t glorify women.

Nathaniel Hawthorne did not directly say that Georgina is a monster. Only by the way she is presented in the story will it then become clear that literature had always been confined to male writers and male characters. Georgina’s birthmark embodies the unforgivable flaws of the female body and her position as a woman. She is not any different from Dr. Frankenstein’s monster; and the only way to kill the female monster is to destroy male literature.

Kate Chopin The Awakening

Georgina is portrayed as a passive character overpowered by her own husband, while Aylmer is a man of science who represents knowledge and invention. Georgina is depicted as a woman who will do anything to earn her husband’s love and fulfill her responsibility as a wife. Since a woman’s intellect is not for invention, she is merely placed in the house to practice domesticity. She even told Aylmer, “I know not what may be the cost to both of us to get rid of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself.”

The reader is, thus, introduced to the fact that women are trained by the patriarchal society to become submissive wives and submit to the idea that men are in control — not the ones being controlled. Thus, there is this concept of mastering the “art of pleasing men”. Even when she was about to die, Georgina tried to be the sweet angel that she was expected be. “My poor Aylmer,” she repeated, with a more human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!”

Given this, the idea of women being selfless, a rather Christian concept, is then highlighted in the story. In literature, it appears to be a norm that the women characters are always the ones who must die and the protagonists must be the males.

millais_mariana

Georgina’s birthmark signifies Aylmer’s insecurities. This reminds us of Freud’s castration complex in which the birthmark becomes the figure of a penis in the eyes of Aylmer – and, thus, he wants to remove the birthmark and have the power all to himself. Most male writers never consider writing as an act of women. This is, perhaps, because female authorship would mean female authority. Women, on the other hand, cannot get out of their shell being domesticated beings who, supposedly, have no right to invent and create another world. If a woman shows resistance, she becomes a madwoman in her society. It appears that only the men have the right to be creators.

Georgina becomes Aylmer’s failure because of the birthmark and her death, even when he was confident of his success.

Male writers write only for themselves. Therefore, women writers are the only ones who can write for women. To restate poet and activist Audre Lorde, only the oppressed could understand oppression, not the oppressors. A female writer must get out of the glass coffin or sleep for a thousand years and wait for the prince to kiss her. We’ve been sleeping for more than a thousand years. Perhaps it’s about to time that more women wake up and shake masculine literature.

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4 comments

  1. Gerald

    hi, im looking forward for nirvana stories ^_^ i think you have the command of the written language, simple, crispy and effective ^_^…

    regarding this write-up, i think i will agree with you about the gender bias that had happened in LIT. in the past… Nathaniel did displayed an example to world Lit.about this issue. in the Scarlet letter,and this attic-woman story..(both has the symbolism written in the characters bodies, a sign of weakness and impurity, worthy to be oppressed)…and in poetry i observed that poetesses (except Dickinson) receive much acclaim unlike male poets…

    But still,even now…this bias exist…
    but you know what?

    you’re a women,and i think you have my praise… ^_^

    keep it up….
    i’ll keep reading…

    maybe i’ll send you copies of my poetry ^_^

  2. Teya Sorroche- Guillermo

    Hi Gerald, thanks for the comments.

    Yes, i hope i can write more nirvana stories..Maybe about courtney love this time..

    About our male literature, i think i’ll have to save my comments and write another post again 🙂

    Thanks for the compliments. Enjoy reading more stories about me, about you, and us…

    PS.

    You can email me your poems:-)

  3. Ariza

    “It appears that only the men have the right to be creators.” ~ Interesting observation. It seems logical that the male need to appropriate creative fields, to the exclusions of women, arose as a result of two factors:

    1. The intrinsic feeling of sexual and procreative inadequacy males feel when comparing their sexual and reproductive capacities to those of women, and,
    2. The exploitation of that inadequacy by elites who recognize the power of divide and conquer.

    In reality, to be female is to overflow, literally, with creativity.

  4. Claudinha

    You got a very sharp, straightforward. I like that. It is something I lack.
    As for the content, very interesting observations on Hawthorne’s work. I have studied “The Scarlet Letter” for college and again for my blog – and I agree when you state that he doesn’t make an effort to praise women. His female characters are invariably flawed, and hopelessly tortured by men. Take poor Hester as example.
    But where he sees weakness, I see strenght, and strong will. So what we can do is twist his interpretation of women, using his own words. I did that when I wrote about Hester in the blog. It was very good effort, thanks to him.
    Nice blog. Hope to come back here a few more times.

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