Feminism in Emily Dickinson's and Willa Cather's Works

Feminism in Emily Dickinson's and Willa Cather's Works -...

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Page 1 Student ID #: 00000 Dr. Westervelt Engl 3351, Sec 00000 12 April 2007 Expansion of Women’s Nature Literary critics do not categorize Emily Dickinson’s and Willa Cather’s literary works as feminist pieces. Supporters of feminism are usually associated with gender extremists who hold animosity towards men. And while Emily Dickinson and Willa Cather did not concentrate their writing on furthering feminism, their literary pieces reflect the oppression of women in their times. However, their pieces move away from radical feminism towards an individualist feminist perspective. Both authors attempt to protect the individual women and critique the stereotypes they have of her. Both writers also use their literary works to reveal the nature of women and expand the boundaries of individual empowerment and responsibility. However, Dickinson and Cather approach their goals in two very distinct ways. Dickinson uses her own questions about human nature and identity as the basis of her poems. She focuses on daily chores with a passionate rebellious spirit. On the other hand, Cather emphasizes a woman’s nature through her characters’ relationships and the stereotypes her society places on her. Cather takes notice of the social surroundings of her protagonists and incorporates them into her characters’ identity. Although Dickinson concentrates on her own spiritual identity while Cather focuses on the role of women in society, the two authors write their literary pieces with the intention of expanding the nature of women. While Dickinson focuses on her own personal issues of confinement, Cather emphasizes a woman’s use of outward appearances to hide her captivity in A Lost Lady . The novel
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Page 2 concentrates on the life and actions of Marian Forrester, a lady who embodies many stereotypical characteristics of women that Emily Dickinson fights to unravel. To Cather, Mrs. Forrester is a trapped soul lost in the confinements of aristocratic society. Cather shows Marian as outwardly comfortable in her status and wealth. In Part I, chapter I, Cather describes Marian as a woman who seems content with her life as a wife and hostess. Guests to the Forrester residence describe her as “always there, just outside the front door, to welcome [her] visitors […] if she happened to be in the kitchen, helping her Bohemian cook, she came out in her apron, waving a buttery iron spoon, or shook cherry-stained fingers at the new arrival” (12). Marian is neither forced nor influenced to greet her husband’s guest. In fact, her actions and enthusiasm show her readiness to play the part of Captain Forrester’s wife. But Cather later reveals that Marian is not happy with her life, or rather that Mrs. Forrester is bored of the life she leads. She tells Niel, “I can’t stand this house a moment longer […] Oh, but it is bleak! Suppose we should have to stay here all next winter, too,…and the next! What will become of me, Niel?” (77). However, Marian returns to
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This note was uploaded on 05/05/2008 for the course ENGL 3351 taught by Professor Westervelt during the Fall '07 term at University of Houston.

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Feminism in Emily Dickinson's and Willa Cather's Works -...

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