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Gender And Modernism

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    Gender And Modernism

    Modernism implies beginning of a new era – A period marked with the considerable change from the Romanticism to the whole new technological and intellectual orders of the day, which exerted considerable influence on the artists and the men of literary genius. In this period, which marked an end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, the writers brought some new artistic styles to capture the intensity of the new waves, which was carrying the society in its vintage.

    The writers of the Modernist period left the conservative approach and looked forward toward the fresh thoughts and Ideologies. They did not believe in the age-old values and became a mirror of the new society, entirely in their new form and style. They stopped writing the story in a chronological order and adopted the approach, which goes deeper into the nature of characters. Many writers developed what is called as the stream-of –consciousness technique and the most prominent among these writers were Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner. In poetry also, there was a considerable change, poets emphasized their viewpoint in the form of images which are presented in fragments and in complex allusions which means putting forward before readers the ideologies and multiple viewpoints by giving reference of any historical figure or event. The best example of images and complex allusions is “The Waste Land of T.S. Eliot” (Zebel, 2005). All the stories of the modernists were based on urban culture.

                Modernism also saw the gender relations taking its new shape, and this new shape was reflected in the various forms of art. The literature and art of Modernism sighted the woman who had broken all the barriers of domestic domain and was sexually liberated too. They got the right to vote and won the elections. The progressive generation of the Modernism world revolted against courtly love. The activities of new women alarmed many minds in love with the old sweet ways of woman hood and regretted at the loss of what was regarded as the essential graces of the fairer sex. Women started the aggressive revolution for their own sexual liberation and from the liberation of the male domination under the leadership of Mrs. Pankhurst. American Kate Millet directly assaulted the domination of males and started the movement known as Women’s Lib. Her “Sexual politics” was a manifesto, which revolted against the stereotype males and declared the sexual freedom of the woman.

    Freud was the first to focus on the Sexual Freedom of women who stated that the sexual repression in both men and women causes several psychological problems. Mental agony of a sexually repressed person in youth can be clearly visible when he reaches adulthood. The period when mere mention of sex was considered as a shameful and Taboo, it was Freud who said that sexual repression is not good for health but indirectly could be the cause of crime also. These views of Freud were adopted by the Modernist writers who gave women new lease of life. But along with that what came to the light were the people for whom true love had no meaning and only left was emotional emptiness in spite of freedom which was clearly seen in the T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land. Waste Land means the whole world has turned in a total Waste Land without any spiritual love. Though every one has got freedom but this freedom has become meaningless in the world, which boasts of new and better life. People have turned themselves towards materialism and the Romance, which was so pure and sincere, now has no meaning.

                In the Waste Land, there are mixed images of women and in many places, these women are treated as mere sexual objects, to be used and have fun with. The description of two lower class women in pub shows the women as just sexually created mere properties or objects. This poem reveals the fact that women have got independence but in this independence, they lost their true identity and became a mere puppet.

    He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you

    To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.

    You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,

    He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.

    And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,

    He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,

    And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.” (Eliot, 1922: 144-150)

    In these lines, woman is portrayed as sexually oriented woman but infertile whose soul has been killed by the demands of her husband to serve him as a machine or domestic servant. In the Waste Land, Eliot portrays three types of women; One who suffers from physical or psychological harassment by men like Dido, Ophelia, Philomel, & second are others who are spending just meaning less lives like the women in the pub, the typist, Marie, Mrs. Equitone, and third type of women who are superstitious i.e. they perform Black Arts like Sibyl and Madame Sesostris. The women of Elliot are stereotypes who despite their newly attained freedom, still are subjugated by males. And Virginia Woolf’s shows emptiness in the life of Mrs. Dalloway who is pondering over her past life, which was full of tensions. With the help of Stream of Consciousness Technique, Woolf shows the readers how the gender divide is manifested in the lives of Mrs. Dalloway and her two children.

    Viriginia Woolf brought before us number of issues in Mrs. Dalloway, and among them Feminism and madness of the characters predominates. Clarissa’s, as a representative of a women is like an Angel in the House and suffers from both sexual and economic repression. In whole novel, Clarissa tries to show that it is very difficult to attain an egalitarian society because still woman was a subject of man. On one hand, Clarissa tries to remain stuck to social defined morality but several times in the novel she has challenged male power. The biggest example is her decision to marry Richard Dalloway and not Peter Walsh her lover because she felt that Richard Dalloway would give her spiritual independence, which she could not expect from Peter Walsh. She believes that independence is spiritually necessary for woman or wife after marriage. Both husband and wife should tolerate and enjoy independent entity. Woolf in the form of Mrs. Dalloway was able to give equality to women to express themselves, have sexual enjoyment and celebrate female independence and sexual liberation.

    Virginia Woolf and Elliot were both friends and visited the same Bloomsbury circle of writers but both had distinct form of writings and wrote about the effects of war on the lives of the people in their own ways. Here, gender plays most important roles in their writings. There are clear signs of gender issues in both Mrs. Dalloway and The Waste Land, which both writers have shown with the help of symbolism, characterization and Structures of Time, which means linking the present to the past and beyond the limited time frame or we can also say, infinite. In this poem, Elliot joins the fragmented parts of the poetry in the form of seasonal cycles though Elliot explains that death is beyond the limitation of time. Whereas Woolf chooses only one day, which is a most lonely day for Clarissa but she remembers her past life, her whole past comes in front of readers like a movie.

    And at this time frame, both Woolf and T.S Elliot characterized the women in their traditional roles yet they are rebels especially in Mrs. Dalloway. When Clarissa said “she would buy Flowers for herself”, this sentence reflects deep Femininity, as flowers have always been considered as Feminine and Fertile and a symbol of innocence and purity but on the same time she is declaring that she can protect herself and does not want masculine protection. Similarly, she protects herself from Sun with the help of Parasol-Sun, which represents masculinity. Parasol is a weapon of Goddess, who acquired it in the battlefield.

               Further Woolf says that War had given women new life to live but also made the women left again under the protection of men. But Clarrisa is a true representative of Modernism. She enjoys life to the full and has a zest for life. She takes pleasure in the world outside, visits the market, buy flowers and loves everything around her. Being an Aristocratic lady, she leads a  socialable life, hold parties but on the other hand her exalted appearance, honor, position, civilization and glitter of middle class society makes her hollow from inside.  She suffers from loneliness, emotional vacuity, and sorrow of death.  When she learns from Lucy that Lady Burton had invited Richard for lunch alone, she felt very miserable and inspite of all the pomp and show around, she retires in her attic room and broods over her loneliness and on hearing about the death of Septimus from Sir Bradshaw, the realization about the inevitability of death dawns on her like a new wave drowning her in a sea.

    Despite the sexual Independence, woman became sterile and a mere symbol in the world of Modernism. The women of  Elliot are fallen women, Marie, Hyacinth Girl, Lil and Madam Sosotris are weak in nature and greedy but victims of societies’ prejudices. There is a sexual boredom and sexual degeneracy. The rich neurotic lady portrayed here is the symbol of loveless lust and her dry hair, which is spread out, reveals her sensual and irritable mood. Though her room is decorated with all the materialistic possessions of modern life yet she and her husband are afflicted with boredom and suppressed nervous tensions reflect through out in their conversation. Afflicted with boredom, she thinks of rushing out and walking in the street just like the frenzied Dido in her palace at Carthage when Aenis abandoned her.

    Even Critics says that images of women are associated with gender and voice and the big example is of Tiresias, a mythological figure from Ovid, an old man who had female breasts. The Gender issue represented by Tiresias is very reflective and profound. In the form of Tiresias, Eliot is emphasizing that women are just secondary to men and are only respected if they are attached to males.

    Woolf is sympathetic towards female victims of war, which she showed by giving the example of Lucrezia. She left Italy and started living in a foreign land. Septimus seduced her and married her but did not love her, and therefore Lucrezia is very unhappy and being a foreigner she had nobody to whom she could turn to and talk.  Septimus too is disturbed. He used to enjoy Shakespeare plays but could not do so now, as the War destroyed all the beauty, which he used to enjoy.

                 In these two pieces of literature, there is an appealing link between sorrow and the creation of gender. The post world war gave to the world, the writers who were both invigorating as well as critical. Mrs. Woolf’s Dalloway is more like lyric poetry in form and substance. In this, women’s characters share the novelists emotional response and in whole novel there is a poetic description of natural scenes, and this poetic beauty is linked with the emotion of characters. Over and above, she adopted poetic rhythm, metaphors, symbols and imageries, which are often repeated as in poems. Dalloway is a true representative of age marked by woman who had independent thoughts but found herself caught in the web of loneliness and spiritual decay. It implies that Woolf was successful in presenting Gender issue in the world marked with Modernism.

                On the other hand, in Elliot’s The Waste Land, the women are marginalized, though independence is reflected in their eyes yet this independence is only in the namesake. In the “Fire Sermon, lady typist, has no meaning of chastity, which is clear in the following lines:

                “She smoothes her hair with automatic hand

                And puts the record on the gramophone”.

    Elliot also uses objective correlative of taxi image to convey unending monotony of modern life.

    In this poem, Gender is marked by Subjugation of women, which is contradictory to the women, who were fighting to give women their rights. The Waste Land is a poem but looks more like a prose. It consists of series of broken images, which is comprehensible, allusive and indirect. He also used images, irony, metaphors and symbols to link the present situation of the modern Waste Land to the past. It is more of an essay in creating a poem out of the vision of the devitalized world- a world that evokes intellectual and materialistic freedom and at the same time denies us the life of love, endurance and peace.

    Reference List

    Bonnie Kime Scott K. B. 2003. Feminist Relocations of Gender and Modernism: A Review Essay. NWSA Journal. Vol. 15(3): 165-178

    Dekoven M. 1999. Modernism and gender. Cambridge Collections Online. Available: http://cco.cambridge.org/extract?id=ccol0521495164_CCOL0521495164A009. [14 July 2007]

    Eliot T.S. 1922. The Waste Land Bartleby.com [Online] Available:

    http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html [14 July 2007]

    Keep C., McLaughlin T.,& Parmar R. 1993-2000. Modernism and the Modern Novel

    The Electronic Labyrinth. [Online] Available: http://elab.eserver.org/elab.html. [14 July 2007]

    Knuth T. 2007. Gender and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Hausarbeiten.de. [Online] Available: http://www.hausarbeiten.de/faecher/vorschau/70041.html. [14 July 2007]

    Vos Marlies de. 2004-2005. Time in Mrs Dalloway and The Hours. ethesis.net. [Online] Available: http://www.ethesis.net/Dalloway/Dalloway_contence.htm. [14 July 2007]

    Woolf V. 1925. Mrs. Dalloway. U.K: Hogarth Press.

    Zabel G.V. 2005. Allusion in Poetry. EzineArticles

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Allusion-in-Poetry&id=115663. [14 July 2007]

     

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