Modern Day Feminist?

I find it interesting that much of my work has come to be regarded as “feminist” literature. I wonder, if I were a man, would my writing still be considered as such. I understand how it could be read and interpreted in this way, but I have to say, I do not wholly agree. I have written from experience, some my own and some gained through observation. I have tried to create characters with their own identities, who have their own unique circumstances and obstacles to overcome. I wanted to convey a view of reality through the eyes of an individual, whether they were male or female.

The purpose of my short story, The Story of an Hour, was not to condemn the institution of marriage, but to examine what marriage can feel like for one person, in this case the story’s main character, Louise Mallard. Keep in mind, in the 19th century, woman had few options other than marriage. More were slowly becoming available, but we were a long way off from the many options women have today. Many women married young (I myself was married at 20 and had all of my six children by the time I was 28) so they were unable to develop any sense of self outside of the expected role of wife and/or mother. Marriage could be oppressive, especially if a woman had an overly controlling husband or if she was overwhelmed with familial and social responsibilities.

The possibility Louise sees of having a life that is completely her own is exhilarating and exciting to her. As she begins to whisper, “free, free, free!”, it is not without a thought for her supposedly dead husband; she remembers fondly his “tender” hands, his face that had “never looked save with love upon her”. She had even loved him…”sometimes”. It is the possibility that she would be in complete control of her own destiny that causes Louise to emerge from her room feeling like a “goddess of Victory”, triumphantly facing a future of her own making.It is Louise’s crushing disappointment that kills her. When her husband walks through the door, it is too much for her to physically and emotionally accept, and she dies.

This piece is not “feminist” in the sense of being anti-marriage or man-bashing, it is a study of an individual’s feelings. That individual happens to be a woman. I hope as you read my work you come to realize that the emotions I tried to convey are universal and not specific to a single gender.

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About Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller can be found running and cycling the streets and suburbs of Boston, taking long sojourns in rare book archives whenever he can. He teaches English at UMass Boston, serves as Book Review Editor for Arthuriana, and writes about digital pedagogy, open access publishing, and medieval literature.

3 thoughts on “Modern Day Feminist?

  1. My dear Kate, I applaud your defense in regards to this story being declared as "feminist." I am not sure, however, you realize that feminism is exactly what you state it is not. Feminism, in its true sense, is the declaration of equality of both the male and female sex, uniting both and saying that each has a fair chance at freedom in their individuality.In our day and age, we have come to know feminism in its stereotypical form of man-bashing, hatred, and brute force of the verbal and physical kind in order to achieve goals of "woman on top" so to speak. But this was actually derived from the second movement of feminism, that of the 1970s to the 1990s, which was mostly comprised of white, middle-class, and oftentimes lesbian women. From this movement (one of three), we have come to form very negative connotations of what feminism actually is. This is not to fault you, my dear, as a majority of those who are unfamiliar with feminism do have this negative view of it in a general sense.I would agree that this story you have so eloquently laid out for us is, in a way, a pre-feminist statement. We have the woman liberated from by her husband's death, and not to say she did not love him, but because now she will know herself apart from marital ties. It is true that many women were unable to know themselves apart from men, and now we have, as a result of feminism (ranging from the 1848 women's right to vote conference in Seneca Falls, to the sexual revolution of the 1960s) and equal opportunity for anyone from either sex to know themselves first and foremost.It is a sad reality that this woman died upon seeing her husband alive and well after she had been thus freed. To think that this would be so devastating as to bring about her demise aptly shows the picture of marriage as being a bond, that of the wife to the husband. Bravo, Kate, on revealing so bluntly this harsh yet unavoidable truth.

  2. Very interesting take on your story, Kate. I agree that "Story of an Hour" has universal themes, but I also think it addresses issues that are specific to women. I believe it is a feminist piece in that it deals with the oppression and repression felt by women at the turn of the 20th century, and does so in a way that supports women's freedom to live a life that is not defined by men, rare even today. Personally, I think there is a lot to be gained from marriage, especially if your husband is submissive to you, but having been in unhappy marriages myself, I could relate to Louise's feeling of being trapped. I think, as Mr. Gray points out, that while some people may think of feminism as having a negative connotation, it has not always been that way. "Man-bashing" and "anti-marriage" sentiments are only felt by a portion of women who believe in feminism, and feminist theory is much richer than your oversimplified version of it. Mr. Gray also wisely pointed out, and I agree, that equality is at the heart of feminism, not hatred. That being said, I think it is good to look at women's lit as literature first and foremost before thinking of it as women's lit, which puts it on an even playing field with literature written by men. So, while I think you have misunderstood feminism, you have also made some distinctly feminist points about an essentially feminist story.

  3. Don't know much 'bout all that feminist stuff. Never known nothin' 'bout wantin' my Big Walter to die. His hard work is what kept our family alive. A woman must stand by the man of the house no matter what. I do know that it wasn't till that man worked himself to death that all that hard workin' paid off. Man didn't live to see his dreams come true. Some kinda irony or somethin' in that. Chopin's story like mine shows that dreams can come in all strange kind of ways. God knows life ain't fair though- disappointment was waitin' for Louise Mallard 'round the corner. Chopin's story makes me think of my daughter Beneatha. Girl finds all that woman's independence stuff important. Girl would make a better man of the house than that son of mine that's for sure! I do understand Mrs Mallard's feelin' all disappointed 'bout her possibilities and dreams bein' crushed. I just 'bout died when my son lost all that money. One ain't got a reason to live if they ain't still hopin' and dreamin'. I think that's what Chopin's story is really tellin' us.

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