Feminist criticism is a literary analysis approach that focuses on the representation of gender and power relations in literature, and how they perpetuate or challenge societal inequalities between men and women. An example of feminist criticism short story would be a piece of literature that portrays women in a way that challenges traditional gender roles, exposes the oppression of women, or highlights women’s experiences and perspectives. Feminist critics might examine the characters’ actions and interactions, the language and imagery used, and the cultural and historical context of the story to analyze its feminist elements. Such a short story may also question or subvert the dominant masculine discourse in literature and society.
Example of feminist criticism short story (Sample)
My research will focus on the feminism literary criticisms in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemmingway. In Kate’s narration, we witness a wife that finds joy on hearing her husband has passed on. She dies of a heart attack upon discovering her husband was not dead. On the other hand, Jig is having a discussion that despises her to the extent that she prefers her fiancé to be quiet. In the two texts, women coercion and denial of free will are evident, despite those close to them trying to portray a different impression.
Table of Contents
Most people in marriages portray to society that they are happily married, whereas they are suffering. Women are usually the most victims suffering through marriage, and they persevere through it all because that is what is projected of them by society. In Chopin’s short story, she reveals the problems women face in marital relationships. The writer deploys irony in her wiring to uncover a message against the traditional roles of women. For example, the statement, “…she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely (Chopin 3).” The implication of this statement is that with the passion of Mr Mallard, she will own herself. Traditionally, married women were renders as their husband’s property.
The husbands had the right to do or command their wives as they deemed fit. Most of Chopin’s works were written in the 18th century, a period when females did not have a voice. Therefore, it is correct to say that this writer was far ahead of her time. Nonetheless, this did not stop her from expressing her feminism ideologies.
Feminist criticism in the story of an hour
Feminism criticism in “The Story of an Hour” can be seen from how the author refutes the oppression of women through unhappy marriages. Despite how unhappy Mrs Mallard was, she did not have the freedom to ask for a divorce. In the setting of this story, a woman that walked away from her husband was like an outcast. Mature women had to be married; otherwise, society did not acknowledge them. Chopin voices the notion that marriages are institutions that restrain women. For instance, news of Mallard’s accident is brought to the wife by Josephine, and from how Mrs Mallard reacts, she did not know of her husband’s whereabouts.
If this marriage was fair, then Mrs Mallard ought to have known where her husband would be going or at least question how the accident occurred. Since husbands held power, their wives had to always adhere to their will (husbands). The women could not demand to know of their husbands’ whereabouts because men are superior and with a sense of freedom. From how Mrs Mallard explains the view outside the window of her room, it is clear that she had spent quite a considerable amount of time in that spot. Traditionally, women were expected to stay indoors, do house chores, and attend to their husbands’ needs. Mrs. Mallard was no exception; she hardly set foot out of her matrimonial house.
Mrs. Mallard had a heart issue; therefore, breaking news of Brently’s death to her had to be done with caution. Her gender dictated how she was supposed to respond. Being a married woman in the 19th century forced her to lament Brently’s passing. On hearing the unfortunate turn of events, she abruptly wept with wild abandonment (Chopin 1). And when she went to her room, no one bothered following her to offer consolation. Reason being this was expected of her by society. Although outwardly Mallard was mournful, her heart was gleaming. In Josephine and her Richards’ presence, Louise had to fake sorrow. However, excitement in her heart continued to grow tender with the thought of being free from her marriage, eventually (Ahmetspahić and Kahric 33). The weak Louise transforms into a strong woman as she contemplates of her newly discovered independence. Here Chopin shows how most married women in the 1900s opted out of their miserable marriages at whatever cost.
The death of Mr. Mallard symbolized a new era in Louise’s life, an era where she would enjoy the pleasure of independence without holding back. “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself (Chopin 2).” She lacked autonomy, and the marriage had deprived her identity. Her former life (in marriage) limited her to being Mallard’s wife and nothing more. It was realizing that her recently discovered autonomy would not last long that killed Louise and not the return of Mr. Mallard (Diederich 117). Coming into terms with the idea of forgoing all the contemplation of being independent was too much for Louise’s heart. Suppose Brentley was indeed dead, society could restrain Louise’s free will. Therefore, death was the only way to fulfill genuine freedom.
Hills like white elephants man vs woman
Hemmingway shows the dominance of men in relationships. In the tale “Hills like White Elephants” the American seems to be dictating Jig’s life choices. The decision to go to Madrid was not Jig’s. And although the American keeps repeating that he is not forcing the girl to go ahead with the operation, this is coercive. How the American keeps reassuring the girl that the procedure is simple is contemptuous. Jig did not consider abortion as a moral or political question; what mattered to her was the impact it would have on their bond (Goodman). From this, it is evident that she was not independent and was inferior to the American. Satisfying her fiancé’s aspirations seems to come before her needs. Considering that it is the woman that carries the pregnancy, she ought to have been the only one deciding whether to abort or keep the baby. But the author shows a scenario where the man is using threats to lure the girl into aborting. The American says, “That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy (Hemmingway 2).” Of course, the girl would want their relationship to be a happy one, and the guy provides what is required to guarantee happiness.
Despite feminists’ effort of enhancing gender equality, some women are still oppressed by dominant men (Boursier 8). The couple in Hemmingway’s story is young, and they both try to be critical decision-makers in their relationship. The American pretends to be concerned about Jig, but in reality, he is selfish and only cares about himself. For instance, he promises Jig they can have everything (Hemmingway 3). If this was true and perhaps Jig wanted to have a baby, then he ought to have been okay with it. But from the couple’s dialogue, it is evident the American was against keeping the baby, and he must have realized the girl was against the abortion. Hemmingway shows how gender dominance can be used to deny the opposite gender their free will. The American appears to be conversant with the operation and convinces his lady that it is a mild activity that she should not worry much about. The man is willing to use any trickery into pushing Jig into going forth with the operation. The author is sympathetic to the difficulty Jig is undergoing (Nolan 14). He weighs all that is at stake from the girl’s perspective. She wants to keep her fiancé, but at the same time, she feels as though going on with the operation will take her identity.
The American and the girl quarrel to a point whereby the girl is fed up and asks the man to be silent, and when the man insists on talking the girl warns him she will scream (Hemmingway 4). At this moment maybe she would have wanted to turn and go her own way, but she was dependent on the man. By the girl threatening to scream, Hemmingway shows the helplessness of women to men. Women are vulnerable even in the hands of men that are supposed to offer them protection and care. When the couple argues and makes eye contact with the bartender, Jig simile to assure her that everything was okay. Society expects women to portray a particular image of their relationships.
Many readers of “Hills like White Elephant” assume that for the sake of retaining their relationship, Jig will have the abortion. Few individuals find these arguments unpersuasive, leading them to conclude that the story leaves the question open (Renner 36). From my perspective, I believe that towards the end of the tale Jig’s feminist sense developed. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine (Hemmingway 4)”. The implication of this line is that Jig accepted herself (as a pregnant lady). She realized that there was nothing wrong with having a baby, after all, being a single parent is not something unusual. By saying she was okay, her ego rose above society’s notion of men dominating women. She was ready to follow her will and live with the consequences that followed (losing her lover). This decision not only disregards her manipulative boyfriend, but she also the constraints society bestows upon women.
Hemmingway and Chopin are examples of reputable writers that spoke out for women. They show how women are manipulated as they strive to fulfill society’s cannons. Louise did not love being married to Mr Mallard, but she had to persevere. And although the death of her husband pleases her, she does not have free will to express her emotions. As for Jig, her boyfriend is using their relationship to manipulate her. However, she is somehow lucky because she eventually grasps autonomy and freedom.
- Ahmetspahić, Adisa, and Dami Kahric. “It’s a Man’s World: Re-examination of the Female Perspective in Chopin’s “Désirée’s Baby” and “The Story of an Hour”.” vol. 29, no. 1, 2020, pp. 23-37. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Boursier, Tristan. “Feminism and Its Enemies.” Books and Ideas, January 2020.
- Chopin, Kate. The Story Of An Hour: Short Story. HarperCollins, 2014. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Diederich, Nicole. “Sharing Chopin: Teaching “The Story of an Hour” to Specialized Populations.” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, vol. 43, no. 2, Aug. 2012, pp. 116-120. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Goodman, Walter. “TV VIEW; the Battle of the Sexes (to be Continued): [Review].” New York Times, Aug 19, 1990. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/427750141?accountid=11033. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants: Short Story. HarperCollins Canada, 2013. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Nolan, Charlse J. ““A Little Crazy”: Psychiatric Diagnoses of Three Hemingway Women Characters.” Hemingway Review;Spring84, vol. 3, no. 2, 1984, p. 14. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.
- Renner, Stanley. “Moving to the Girl’s Side of “Hills Like White Elephants.”.” The Hemingway Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 1995, pp. 27-41. Accessed 18 Sept. 2020.