Essay on The Walking Woman By Mary Austin

1077 Words Apr 11th, 2016 null Page
There is little wonder that Mary Austin’s short story, “The Walking Woman,” is often read as a narrative that is teeming with feminist themes. The abundance of feminist strands within the text can hardly be gainsaid. Yet, it is the way in which Austin approaches these themes that makes the tale such a fascinating piece of American literature. “The Walking Woman” rarely veers into the realm of the explicit, instead favoring challenging ambiguity to portray its message, creating a text that frustrates definitive storytelling in concert with its title character’s denunciation of established gender dynamics. Austin’s often cryptic diction reflects the Walking Woman’s own enigmatic nature as well as her place within socially constructed gender norms. The very title “The Walking Woman,” is illustrative of Austin’s use of language as a means to present her themes obliquely. Though the name is a very literal description of the character’s way of life, it is also a statement of her ability to “walk” through normally homo-social environments unimpeded by boundaries presented by gender. As the narrator states: “She was the Walking Woman, and no one knew her name, but because she was a sort of whom men speak respectfully, they called her Mrs. Walker, and she answered to it if she was so inclined” (216). The Walking Woman not only moves within the homo-social structure, but also participates in the “normal” gender protocol when she so desires. Austin would appear to be formulating a…

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