Sex silence and isolation :Wharton’s entrapped women
As a transatlantic writer Edith Wharton witnessed unprecedented social economic and political transformations both in America and in the world at large. Deeply concerned with the issues of her day Wharton produced fiction about the effects of change at all levels of society - not only the upper - class New York society of which she herself was a member but also that of New England villages. This dissertation analyzes female characters in the novels of Edith Wharton - Ethan Frome Summer and The House of Mirth - that suffer from isolation and social entrapment as a direct result of the traditional gender roles imposed on them as well as of their financial insecurity and economic dependence on men. The first two chapters focus on the two female characters Zeena Frome and Mattie Silver who are not only marginalized but also presented as rivals – in Gilbert and Gubar’s terminology Zeena is a monster a witch or a madwoman while Mattie is an angel although they are equally trapped and powerless in their dependency on the single male figure Ethan Frome. in the next chapter i focus on Charity Royall in Summer who feels miserable because of her entrapment in a small village like North Dormer and of her forced dependence on her foster father Lawyer Royall who becomes her husband in the end. in the final chapter i demonstrate how Lily Bart in The House of Mirth is entrapped by isolation and the false values of the upper-class New York society: the extreme emphasis on wealth and beauty the two dominant forces shaping and affecting individual lives deeply. Reflecting on how social norms and codes restrict individuals and set boundaries for their roles Wharton comments in her fiction on the tragic unpredictability and insecurity of life which comes especially in the form of the unhappy and shocking endings of her novels. One can argue that her fictional world is more complex and confusing than it looks on the surface. Drawing techniques from deconstruction this dissertation discusses that there are various meanings inherent in the text: one cannot easily guess which one Wharton intended to convey but Wharton grants the reader a lot of latitude and so her novels especially their endings are open to many interpretations. Yet as many feminist scholars have also noted one can only be sure of Wharton’s severe critique of the limitations and expectations placed on women who are raised to become nothing more than domestic servants and companions for men in nineteenth-century American society.
- Doktora Tezleri