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  • Titill er á ensku Fighting Back & Falling Hard: Representation of the New Woman & Psychological Decline in The Awakening & The House of Mirth
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    This paper discusses how Edna Pontellier and Lily Bart, the protagonists of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, represent the fin de siècle phenomena known as the New Woman in fiction. Furthermore, it explores the reasons behind the protagonists’ psychological decline from well-established, upper-class women to “fallen,” and emotionally unstable individuals, culminating in their suicides in both novels. The analysis makes use of feminist and psychoanalytic criticism, to examine the implications of the authors’ representation of this new type of heroine. Through a feminist perspective, I firstly analyze how the protagonists embody the idea of the New Woman, with their display of masculine qualities, rejection of motherhood, and by demanding sexual freedom. Secondly, I consider how the representation of Edna and Lily as New Women ties in with “The Woman Question” of the time, which dealt with women’s rights, and their role in society. There the focus is on how they reject marriage as a woman’s ultimate destiny, and renounce the established patriarchy, as well as how their stories reflect the social castration women had to endure. From a Freudian psychoanalytical perspective, the analysis moves on to how the heroines’ inner conflict, the fact that their psyches are governed by the id, and their apparent fixation at the oral stage, along with their inherent Freudian narcissism, play a vital part in their ultimate demise, leading them to commit suicide. Although very different characters, Edna and Lily both represent women that fight back, and eventually fall from grace. This form of representation demonstrates the authors’ criticism of the status quo, their attempt to accustom society to the change they believed to be eminent, and by making their heroines martyrs for the cause of the women’s movement, they paved the way for coming generations of New Women.

  • 8.5.2014

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