Made women: And then there was Eve...Isabel, Tess, Daisy, Brett, Caddy, and Sarah
Orr Montoya, Moragh Jean
Isle, Walter W.
Doctor of Philosophy
The myth of the disobedient woman, along with patriarchal myths of virginity, provide writers with what appears to be a natural alliance between womanhood and fiction. This alliance, not natural but artificial, is between man and fiction using woman's virginally "empty" form as a metaphorical space in which the writer creates himself and his stories. In The Portrait of a Lady, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, The Sound and the Fury and The French Lieutenant's Woman male novelists use disobedient women to tell surface narratives which appear to be about their female heroes but which are actually about the needs, desires and fears of the male writers, narrators, characters. The story of the woman hero, when it exists, lies buried in the margins of the male stories, moving in secret contradiction below the surface reflection of the male story. The surface narrative of The Portrait is built on a series of misunderstandings of Isabel's ideas and intentions. She is judged based on these misunderstandings rather than on what she herself achieves. Similarly, Hardy's surface narrative obscures the fact that Tess is a fierce woman whose individuality leads to her end on the gallows. Daisy provides the perfectly silent, compliant form for tales told by Nick, Gatsby, and Fitzgerald. While Brett tells the story that Hemingway gives her to tell, she also maintains great individual power. Caddy is usually seen as the means to a fuller understanding of her brothers, or, more recently, as a blank mirror reflecting male desire. Though she is used in both these ways inside the novel she is also a character with a strong voice and a story that I believe Faulkner meant us to hear. Sarah, often viewed as a feminist, actually has no story nor voice. Fowles's story is of man's fear of woman s power to "make" man in her image. These authors write fantasies of control that they cannot maintain. Depending on the author, what emerges is either a strong woman who tells her own story or the secret story of the writer.
Comparative literature; American literature; English literature; Women's studies