Liberal Feminism In The Handmaid's Tale

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and though the practice is a large part of Haitian culture, Westerners often view it as unorthodox and sexually abusive. Danticat depicts “testing” in her novel as a means of discussing postcolonial feminist issues which are often misunderstood and rarely even discussed in mainstream feminist literature. Similar to the internalized misogyny depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, women in Breath, Eyes, Memory facilitate their own oppression by “testing” their daughters as they were once “tested” by their mothers. At one point, Sophie, an adult at this point, asks her mother why she “tested” her when she was young. Her mother responds: "I did it…because my mother had done it to me. I have no greater excuse” (Danticat, 170). Her mother then equates …show more content…
The novel follows the main character Esther, as she grapples with her own identity in the face of the expectations of others. Plath uses Esther’s trajectory in the novel as a means of exploring issues of Liberal Feminism. Liberal Feminism puts great emphasis on individualism and suggests that women can achieve equality through their own actions and decisions. The liberal feminist movement focuses on issues of reproduction, equal pay, voting, education, abortion, sexual harassment, and sexual and domestic violence. Throughout the novel, Esther rejects the notion that she should devote her life to domestic duties such as becoming a wife and mother. She feels that getting married and having children is equivalent to “being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb, as a slave in some private, totalitarian state” (Plath, 89). People in Esther’s life, including her own mother, reject her wishes to be a writer and urge her to devote herself to more traditionally feminine endeavors. She describes her feelings regarding others’ expectations of her: “The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket” (87). Esther does not wish to live a life defined by others or her relationships to them. She wishes to lead a …show more content…
Esther herself falls gradually into a pit of depression, leading her to attempt suicide numerous times. Esther’s descent into depression mirrors Plath’s own battle with mental illness during her life, and The Bell Jar serves as a means of examining the effects traditional societal standards have on women who wish to defy conventional gender roles. Esther’s mental illness arises out of her effort to escape social gender norms while those norms simultaneously affect every facet of her life. The forms of oppression Esther faces, such as discrimination in her career, the trials of female sexuality, and her resulting mental illness are all major issues of Liberal

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