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Feminist theory

The theory studies the role of male and female in a patriarchal society.
Aspects to look at during analysis

How male dominance and female powerlessness manifest themselves in specific aspects
of society through a text. If this is true, it shows that the stereotype of woman being less
than men in a patriarchal society.
Patriarchy: any culture that privileges men by promoting traditional gender roles.

What are traditional gender roles?

o Men: rational, strong, protective, and decisive
o Women: emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing and submissive
The re-articulation of power through institutional practice
o Economic
o Political
What are the implications of patriarchy?
o Men are empowered, women are powerless
o Men inflate and abuse their power so women are defined in convenient terms for men
o Woman- no financial/political power to define herself
Rational vs. irrational; dominating vs. submissive; public domain vs. domestic realm;
provider/protector vs. caretaker/mother; strong vs. gentle/weak

Find tension that stems from patriarchy

What is the author saying about that tension?
Pinpoint specific literary devices
Interpret those literary devices and harness them toward supporting your thesis

1. Consider the roles and situations of female characters. Make lists of different aspects of the

female character's place in the overall story. Include anecdotal scenarios that will back up a
holistic thesis.
Look at the relationship of female characters to each other. Examine any discrepancies that might
shed light on the overall role of females in the book.
Review the role of female characters in relation to their male counterparts. Literary criticism has
its famous set of contrasts, for example, man vs. nature, nature vs. society, that set up points of
inquiry. In this case, your fundamental contrast would be woman vs. man.
Consider the attitudes of characters and how their world-views contribute to the eventual
outcomes in the story. The goals of characters may or may not cause outcomes. Evaluate how
"powerful" each character becomes.

What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming
male/female roles)?

How are male and female roles defined?

What constitutes masculinity and femininity?

How do characters embody these traits?

Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others
reactions to them?

What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or
psychologically) of patriarchy?

What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting

What does the work say about women's creativity?

What does the history of the work's reception by the public and by the critics tell us about the
operation of patriarchy?

What role the work play in terms of women's literary history and literary tradition?

Feminism is a perspective that views gender as one of the most important

bases of the structure and organization of the social world. Feminists argue
that in most known societies this structure has granted women lower status
and value, more limited access to valuable resources, and less autonomy
and opportunity to make choices over their lives than it has granted men. It
seeks to uncover discrimination by gender and advocate the equal rights of
women through political, economic, social psychological sense.


How does the authors social and economic class show through the work?

Does the work support the economic and social status quo, or does it
advocate change?

What roles does the class system play in the work?

What role does class play in the work; what is the authors analysis of class

How do characters overcome oppression?

What does the work say about oppression; or are social conflicts ignored or
blamed elsewhere?

Does the work propose some form of utopian vision as a solution to the
problems encountered in the work?

In what ways does the work serve as propaganda for the status quo; or does
it try to undermine it?

Does the literature reflect the authors own class or analysis of class

Marxist analyses of society and history have had a profound effect on

literary theory and practical criticism. Marxist Criticism deals with focusing
on the ideological content of a work of literature and its explicit and
implicit assumptions and values about matters like culture, race, class,
and power. It is based on Marxism, or the theories of Karl Marx.