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The Oppression of Women in American Literature from the Civil War to World War I

Uploaded by KyraDean on Oct 29, 2002

Women through time have faced innumerable oppressions as they have continued their constant struggle in gaining not only equality to men, but also a true understanding of who they really are and where their role in society. Many literary pieces that we have studied convey the many ripping emotions women within these works have experienced. These literary women are ultimately representative of some, if not all, women of each respective time in American history. Literature from the Civil War to World War I accurately portrays women in the respect that they were viewed as subordinate to men, yet it also shows that women were coming into their own and fighting for their own place in society where they were equal to men.

As early in our readings as Mark Twain, he is an example of early American writings simply excluding women altogether. The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (21) is without the first hint of female recognition. The same is seen in Twain’s Roughing It (25). It is not that these stories were masculine and a woman’s presence would deter from their manliness, but that early American writers simply saw women as inferior and omitted women from literature.

Editha (258), written by W. D. Howells, does a better job at least in acknowledging women as being significant enough in society so that they could be written about. Despite this breakthrough, Editha is shown as a dreamer, conceited, and self-absorbed. She was a capricious romantic who wanted her knight in shining armor and wanted the allure of war. She manipulates her love, George, to the point of his submissiveness to her. This sign of weakness in George is reflected on Editha because it was her selfishness, a trait proposed to only to exist in women, which finally killed George.

In 1888, I believe, the Seneca Falls convention to rally for women’s suffrage convened in Seneca Falls, New York. Around this time when women were vocalizing their independence in society, Kate Chopin had reached a point in her life where she was perplexed by the sudden deaths of her husband and mother and left to raise all her children on her own. It was then that she began penning her perhaps most famous work, The Awakening (467). Throughout this novel, Chopin illuminates Edna Pontellier with her anger, bewilderment, frustrations, and desire for freedom from the life to which she is confined. Chopin uses...

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Uploaded by:   KyraDean

Date:   10/29/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   3 pages (783 words)

Views:   3441

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