Women in Early Twentieth Century American Literature
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The paper examines how authors like Jean Toomer, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Hilda Doolittle tracked the change of the female from object to individual, and eventually to a full-fledged and active protagonist, with the faculty to think and act independently. The paper specifically analyzes Hilda Doolittle's poem "Helen," Jean Toomer's short story "Fern" and Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed". The paper highlights how the decade immediately following World War I was an especially important period in the self-redefinition of women.
From the Paper:"Doolittle's poem "Helen," first published in 1924, takes an ironic look at the traditional patriarchal view of the female as object. The poem, as the title implies, is concerned with the historic/mythic figure of Helen, whose beauty and questionable fidelity (depending on the version and perspective of the tale) lay at the heart of the Trojan War, one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in the ancient world, and a touchstone for the later Greek writers for many--if not most--of the themes upon which they were writing. Military heroism, obedience and defiance to the gods, and epic familial struggles were all a part of the Trojan War and its aftermath. But the cause of it all was Helen, a beautiful woman, who was stolen from one man the way one might steal a cattle or an expensive jewel. Helen, in short, is entirely objectified in the story of the Trojan War, having very little agency and important only for what she symbolized.
"Hilda Doolittle takes this symbolism and inverts it, using the techniques of imagist poetry to paint a verbal portrait of Helen that seems at once aligned with and diametrically opposed to the traditional and mythic view. This is true not only of Helen herself, but also of Doolittle's use of other traditional Western symbols. The color white is generally associated with purity, innocence, and even explicitly virginity. Doolittle uses it constantly throughout the poem to refer to Helen, whom "All Greece hates" and "reviles," which is not generally the way innocence and virginity are treated (Doolittle 1942, line 1, 6)."
Sample of Sources Used:
- dictionary.com. "zest." Accessed 22 May 2009. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/zest
- Norton anthology of American Literature, Volume D. Nina Baym, ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2003.
Cite this Analytical Essay:
Women in Early Twentieth Century American Literature (2011, December 06) Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/analytical-essay/women-in-early-twentieth-century-american-literature-149320/
"Women in Early Twentieth Century American Literature" 06 December 2011. Web. 02 July. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/analytical-essay/women-in-early-twentieth-century-american-literature-149320/>