The configuration of a woman’s identity consists of the expectations that society places on her. Such expectations are still in existence today. Authors from the nineteenth and twentieth century are using literature and poetry as a vehicle for the new role and passion of the woman. Such authors as Kate Chopin, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Marge Piercy, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Henry James evoke a new sense of expectations for women in their use of literary language.
One must acknowledge the differences in the expected roles of women and those the authors are portraying in order to penetrate the effect the author is trying to convey. These authors go beyond the norm and give women hope for the future. Kate Chopin creates a female character in “At the Cadian Ball” and “The Storm” that is vivid and defiant. Calixta is the image of hope that an authentic woman dares to embody. Chopin challenges society in her literature. She tests the roles of women. For instance, the female character she depicts in “The Storm” and “The Cadian Ball” is sexually overbearing, an adulterous, and presumptuous.
Radek suggest that women of the nineteenth century “were not supposed to have any real sexual contact before their marriage. ” The characteristics that Calixta possesses are dissimilar to the expected roles of women. The women of this time should be reserved, subservient, compliant, and gentle creatures. Henry James paints a picture of a similar vixen in Daisy Miller, although Daisy is innocent and naive in her promiscuity. James, no doubt being male, depicts women in a role outside of that of society. He portrays Daisy as innocently flirtatious.
While this is not completely immoral, it is defiant of a placid nature. Mary Wilkins Freeman does not create as much controversy as Chopin, although she does create characters that embody independence rather than subservience. In “The New England Nun,” Louisa encompasses the typical homemaker characteristics, but she withstands independence when she rejects submission to Dagget, while declining to marry him. Wilkins expresses the hindered spirit of rebellion in “The Revolt of Mother. ” She uses her words to convey the rebellious attitude the woman feels and is dared to communicate.
She expresses the anger and uprising women are mandated to keep silent. Poetry is a vehicle for thought provoking expression that flows gently. Such poets as Edna St. Vincent Millay and Marge Piercy communicate their thoughts through the flow of language. Edna St. Vincent Millay writes in an emotional upheaval. In “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed,” she transmits her despairing and vulnerable attitude. Marge Piercy writes from the corner in which women confine themselves. She portrays the loneliness that one feels because of the expectations that society places on them.
The character in “Barbie Doll” is driven to suicide because she falls short of these expectations. This poem plays out the helplessness of the woman, while “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen” portrays the woman’s rebellious nature. This wife is tired of being “socially correct” and acts out in fits of rage. Kate Chopin, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Marge Piercy, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Henry James are writers of today. They innovate the true desires, passions, and frustrations of the American woman.
While many of them are unable to articulate their inner desires and frustrations through physical expression, due to social restraints, they are able to express these emotions through their writing. This vehicle of emotion is a channel for the mind, body, and soul because of society’s secluding forces. These authors are able to play out the roles that they desire, those roles that are unmentionable, through their words. Their words are the true expression of a woman’s mind and feelings, while society believes that women are not suppose to behave or feel these ways.
Hartman says that a “women’s God-given role was as wife and mother, keeper of the household, guardian of the moral purity of all who lived therein. ” In conclusion, through the years, it is prevalent that the inner woman bears similar characteristics. Women are consistently making a way through life to gain equality to men. They desire to express the emotions and passions they possess while stepping outside of the societal standards. Chopin uses Calixta as a symbolic representation of the woman’s sexual emotions that are forcibly in suppression.
Freeman symbolizes independence in the character she creates. Millay, simply, expresses her emotions and frustrations as a woman. Piercy articulates the bondage that a woman is under due to the roles and appearances they are expected to maintain. Henry James, not being a woman, creates Daisy, a woman filled with innocent flirtation. This is a characteristic outside of the reserved, subservient expectation. Though these authors may be the initiation of controversy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their rebellious illustrations are, no doubt, compelling to readers today.
Works Cited Chopin, Kate. “At the Cadian Ball” . Chopin, Kate. “The Storm” . Freeman, Mary W. “A New England Nun” . Freeman, Mary W. “The Revolt of Mother” American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 145-159. Hartman, Dorothy. “Women’s Roles in the Late 19th Century”. 10 Aug. 2005 < http://www. connerprairie. org/historyonline/1880wom. html>. James, Henry. Daisy Miller < http://ci. moc. edu/webapps/portal/frameset. jsp? tab =courses&url=/bin/common/course. pl? course_id=_367_1>. Millay, Edna St. Vincent.
“I Being Born A Woman and Distressed” American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 575. Piercy, Marge. “Barbie Doll” American Literature, vol 2, 6th ed. William E. Cane. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 1453. Piercy, Marge. “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen? ” . Radek, Kimberly. “Women in Literature”. 9 Aug. 2005 < http://www. ivcc. edu/GEN2002/Women_in_the_Nineteenth_Century. htm>. “Victorian Lace”. 12 July 2005 < http://www. geocities. com/victorianlace10/women. html>. Wyatt, Neal. “Biography of Kate Chopin”. 1995 http://www. vcu. edu/engweb/eng384/katebio. htm