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UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DEL LITORAL

TALLLER DE METODOLOGA DE LA INVESTIGACIN DESTINADO A LA ELABORACIN DE LA TESIS

LOOKING FOR FREEDOM

PROFESOR: DANIEL FERNANDEZ

ALUMNA: ALICIA B. PALAVECINO

7 DE FEBRERO DE 2011

Introduction

By the turn of the century XIX in America, magazines, art galleries and novels were flooded with advice about how to be a proper woman in middle class society. With industrialization, a declining birth rate, increased divorce rate, the increase in the number of single men and women in the professional class, a growing immigrant population, and the new freedoms made available by the anonymity possible in cities, Americans feared that their families would fall apart. As a result, one of the most significant c hanges in American culture in the late nineteenth century, in social structures, Americans experienced profound shifts in the economy. Large corporations replaced small family business and workers were at the mercy of their employers. The disparity between the wealthy and the poor drastically increased. These changes created a strong middle class, while also removing economic power away from the home and family. This sense of disempowerment resulted in an understanding of the home as the last refuge for tra ditional values for both men and women. However the responsibility for maintaining the home was shouldered solely by women. This is the society described in The Awakening (Kate Chopin, 1899) and The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton, 1905), where women characters are exposed to social, cultural and economic limitations in patriarchal and conservative societies. Discriminatory attitudes and treatment towards women are depicted in these societal environments. Edna Pontellier (in The Awakening) and Lily Bart (in The House of Mirth) struggle against social constraints and patriarchal oppression in their societies. Edna and Lily challenge these social and cultural limitations but unfortunately their weaknesses take them to commit suicide. The central argument of this paper is that in The Awakening and The House of Mirth the two authors are pessimistic about the possibilities women have had of living a life of happiness inside the patriarchal system, since the womens desires of happiness go against the mandate of those societies. Pessimism is present indirectly in the attitudes of the different characters around Edna and Lily. The authors make the main characters die as victims of all this. The writers also make the main characters feel deep desires, such as the one of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening falling in love and Lily Bart in The House of Mirth looking for a good match to keep appearances in high society, the authors seem to have wanted to prove that society is wrong about the imposed system of meanings, values and beliefs. Even when we know that the main characters have their own weaknesses, by making the two protagonists commit suicide the authors state their views about the negative and devastating effect of such practices on spirits like those of Edna and Lily.
Relevance or contribution to the specific field it belongs into

Although The Awakening and The House of Mirth have been objects of study from different perspectives, noting has yet been about why the authors of the novels make the main characters die and not leave their societies. To know if there is a political intention from the authors part in writing these feminist novels we are going to consider the concept of hegemony. We are going to see if the inequity and cruel system of values and beliefs under the capitalistic system affect not only mens but also womens lives. We are going to see why the authors give their heroines deep desires
Theoretical Framework

In her work The Politics of the FEMINIST NOVEL (1986) Judi M. Roller states that the feminist novel mainly deals with women style of living under capitalist systems in patriarchal societies. The main characters of the novels represent women in general as well as women in particular. They are portrayed as an oppressed group. Their struggles represent political battles between men and women in the power relationship existing between groups. The situations presented depend to some extent upon economic, political and social systems. The status of women is that of a minority group. Frequently, the main character in the novel gets mad and this madness is connected with public madness, in this way the reader does not feel the need to be separated from the main character. The novels suggest the need of deep changes in Western government, culture and society, rather than simply reform or modification. (Judi M. Roller, 1986) The heroines of The Awakening and The House of Mirth are victims of the political, social and econo mic context. For the analysis of the political system under capitalism it is necessary to consider the concept of hegemony, which is a system where the oppressed agree to be oppressed by their oppressor in exchange of some kind of benefit. Raymond Williams, capitalizing on Gramscis thought, in Marxism and Literature (1977) defines hegemony as a political rule or domination in the relation between countries. Under Marxism this definition is extended to the relation between classes, mainly to definit ions of a ruling class. Hegemony acquires a significant sense in the work of Antonio Gramsci. He makes a distinction between rule and hegemony. Rule is expressed in directly political forms and in times of crisis by direct or effective coercion. But the more normal situation is a complex interlocking of political, social and cultural forces, and hegemony, according to different interpretations, is either this or the active social and cultural forces which are its necessary elements. Hegemony is a concept that includes and goes beyond the concepts of culture as a whole process, in which men define and shape their whole lives , and that of ideology, in any of its Marxist senses, in which a system of meanings and values is the expression or projection of a particular class interest. To say that men define and shape their whole lives is true only in abstraction because in

any actual society there are specific inequalities in means and therefore in capacity to realize this process. Gramsci introduces the recognition of dominance and subordination in the whole process. In this wholeness of the process the concept of hegemony goes beyond ideology. What is decisive in not only the conscious system of ideas and beliefs, but the whole lived social process as practically organized by specific and dominant meanings and values. Ideology is a formal and articulated system of meanings, values, and beliefs, of a kind that can be abstracted as a worldview or a class outlook. (Raymond Williams, 1977, page )
Purpose

The purpose of this work is to study the workings of hegemony in these two novels. To throw light on the views presented in these two novels regarding the possibilities women had as represented by Edna Pontellier and Lily Bart - of living their lives according to their desires. To study how two novels of manners establish dialogues with their contexts it is generally to revise established values, patriarchal and hierarchical social system. These novels illuminate or suggest the power relationship existing between groups in patriarchal societies. The situations are dependent upon economic , political, and social systems. The status of women is that of a minority group. The relegation of a group to minority status does not depend upon its size or proportion of the population but upon its subordination. Generally the central character in the feminist novel is mad, and this madness is connected with public madness. The novels can end in the flight or the death of the main character as it is the case of the novels which are the object of analysis for this work: The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. We are going to consider: the societal groups of each one of the authors and their influence on the topics of The Awakening and The House of Mirth, the protests against the unfair treatment of women and how their voices were manifested in literature. We are going to characterize the feminist novels and the politics behind them, the pessimism about the possibilities the main characters have of living a life of happiness and self realization in their societies and the w arning about the negative effect that these patriarchal practices have on souls like those of Edna and Lily. We are going to define the concepts of: hegemony, patriarchy, feminism and novel of manners. In The politics of the FEMINIST NOVEL (1 986) Judi M. Roller states that the terrors of the twentieth century, its chaos, its fragmentation, and its ever increasing dehumanization, are reflected as an aura of hopelessness in its novels. The ending to these novels underscore this general tone of d esperation. For the twentieth -century feminist novel, the flight stemming from despair is frequent. The majority of these novels end in flight and escape or death, literal or symbolic. Through these endings the authors cry out a condemnation of racist, capitalist, sexist societies

The influence of the ideology and practices imposed by a ruling class on a subordinate group is analyzed in Marxism and Literature (1977). Here Williams Raymond states that hegemony is not only the articulate upper level of ideology, nor are its forms of control only those ordinarily seen as manipulation or indoctrination. It is a whole body of practices and expectation, over the whole of living: our senses and assignments of energy, our shaping perceptions of ourselves and our world. It is a lived system of meanings and valuesconstitutive and constituting which as they are experienced as practices appear as reciprocally confirming. It thus constitutes a sense of reality for most people in the society, a sense of absolute because experienced reality beyond which it is very difficult for most members of the society to move, in most areas of their lives. It is, that is to say, in the strongest sense a culture, but a culture which has also to be seen as the lived dominance and subordination of particular classes.
Method

The categories to be used in this work are the following:


Main Categories: Hegemony: The traditional definition of 'hegemony' is political rule or domination, especially in relations between states. Marxism extended the definition of rule or domination to relations between social classes, and especially to definitions of a ruling class. Gramsci made a distinction between 'rule' (dominio) and 'hegemony'. 'Rule' is expressed in directly political forms and in times of crisis by direct or effective coercion. But the more normal situation is a complex interlocking of political, social, and cult ural forces, and 'hegemony', according to different interpretations, is either this or the active social and cultural forces which are its necessary elements. Whatever the implications of the concept for Marxist political theory (which has still to recognize many kinds of direct political control, social class control, and economic control, as well as this more general formation), the effects on cultural theory are immediate. For 'hegemony' is a concept which at once includes and goes beyond two powerful earlier concepts: that of 'culture' as a 'whole social process', in which men define and shape their whole lives; and that of 'ideology', in any of its Marxist senses, in which a system of meanings and values is the expression or projection of a particular class interest. (Williams,1977: 108). In this study I will see how hegemony is represented within the fictional worlds, and how the female characters interact with it. Patriarchy: It is a social system in which the father or eldest male is head of the household, having authority over women and children. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by fathers, and to the rule of fathers in social or cultural systems. It may also include title being traced through the male line.

The term patriarch means the father or chief of a clan. It is also used in Christianity as an official title, and derives from the Greek patrirches via the Latin patriarcha. Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes. While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, "institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were dev ised." Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words "patrist" and "matrist" to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. However, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, invariably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions. In this work the social interactions displayed within the fictional worlds will be understood in terms of patriarchy.
Specific categories: Novel of Manners: It originated in England, Jane Austen was the quintessential producer of the form, and its subject is the set of social conventions of a particular class in a particular time and place. The growth of the novel of manners appears to have been centered in the nineteenth century. If critics agree on England as the country of origin, there is considerable disagreement on scrutinized in the novel of manners could be the aristocracy, but it is more likely the gentry, the emerging middle class, or even the lower class.

Many works contrasted the customs of the various groups, examining not only class and economic differences, but also the differences between city and countryside, between an earlier agrarian culture and a contemporary industrial order, and between England and America. This apparent necessity to compare the conventions of two or more groups led some early critics to insist that the novel of manners was not suited to American literature. They proclaimed the United States a homogeneous, classless society where no distinctions between citizens existed. Some asserted that the manners of all groups were identical; others insisted that American manners were nonexistent, claiming that Americans were too preoccupied with taming the wilderness and settlin g the land to develop any standard rules of conduct. More recent literary historians have disagreed with this assessment, insisting that concern with American manners and mores can be traced at least as far back as James Fenimore Coopers time (1789 -1851). (http//www.enotes.com/nineteenth -century-criticism/novel-manners) Character:

Edna Pontellier: She is a woman who starts to look for independence from men after she learns to swim. Later she experiences this sense of freedom through art and lately being with Robert . She does not want to live taking care of appearances, she wants to be authentic, and she wants to be herself. She is ready to leave the house on Esplanade Street and go to live in a small house since this means to be independent from the imposed duties of society. She does not want to be one of her husbands properties. However Robert says that he cannot take one of Mr. Pontelliers properties making Edna loose her faith in a future of happiness. Edna rebels against the institution of marriage since she is disappointed with her own marriage. She refuses to go to her sisters wedding since she considers the ceremony to be a lamentable spectacle. After knowing about Ednas refusing to go to the wedding her father recommend s Mr Pontellier to be firm and strong with his wife . Ednas father legitimates unfair treatment of women in marriage. Even when she married because of love she stopped admiring and loving her husband because of the duties imposed by him and by society. Mr. Pontellier is courteous while she is submissive to him. Robert teaches her to enjoy simple things such as swimming and dancing. She falls in love with him because she admires his courteous manners and mainly because his company makes her discover new sensations, she has never experienced before . These new experiences are not considered proper of women in this society. Lily Bart: She could sell her beauty to any man she wanted, however she demonstrates that she is not only a beauty, she is a spiritual person with moral values which are not considered important in the high society she is in contact with. She prefers not to sell the letters which could help her to reenter in high society, avoiding in this way a public scandal for her friend Selden and Bertha. She avoids taking Berthas husband, who suspects his wifes infidelities in the name of loyalty to the woman who once seemed to be her friend , even when everybody knows about them. Lily herself fights to change her likes for luxury after she realizes that she has no money to bet and that Gus Trenor has cheated on her. She prefers to work to survive and wait for the inherited money to pay her debts. S he realizes that she lives in a world where rich people think they are happy, but actually they appear to be happy. In fact they are concerned about how to show they are powerful and how rich they are. The way s they get their fortunes do not matter. On the contrary Lily is not ready to get a good position to the cost of sinking people as Rosedale prop oses her to do. She is an integrated person in all senses. Lily pays the price society imposed her. She should have married earlier but she lost all opportunities in looking for the best one. There is no chance for her

to get a good match because of her overage and because she has no money to pay for the luxury of sharing the company of rich people. After she is indebted she realizes that the world of rich people is superficial without real and deep feelings. She is not ready to dirty or s ink people to get a good position as everybody does in this society. She is not going to sell herself to be part of the superficial world where people think they are happy when actually they are fool.
Tentative Schedule

Feb Analysis of Theoretical Framework Data Collection in Bibliography and Novels Analysis of Results Elaboration of Conclusion Writing a Draft Version Final Version Submittal

March April May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sept Oct

Nov

References and Bibliography

Roller, Judi M. (1986), The Politics of the FEMINIST NOVEL , Greenwood Press. Raymond, Williams (1977), Marxism and Literature, Oxford University Press. Chopin, Kate (2003), The Awakening and Selected Stories , Penguin Classics. Wharton, Edith (2997), The House of Mirth, Wordsworth Classics.