Hashim Ahmed Mohammed
College of Education for Humanities, Thiqar University
Dawood Imad Ibraheem, PhD, Head of the English Dept.
The Quest for a Feminist Identity in " The Office" by the Canadian Alice Munro
Gender inequality is a very problematic issue in the 20th century. In many different societies, women's freedom and life have not been improved. Legislations do not give women their rights that fit their needs. Such prejudicial life and discrimination urged women to react to gain their legal rights for equality [1, p. 1]. With the advent of the 2th century, a sense of inequality and unjust treatment against women started to be intensified. Women were imprisoned in their old stereotypical image in which they were pictured as obedient housewives and submissive mothers. That made them feel frustrated and downgraded. The discrimination against women’s individuality pushed them to take an action which was earlier identified by a revolt to express themselves and their needs firmly. As gender inequality was an important issue in politics and economics, feminists succeeded in international conferences such as the official conference of “Gender Mainstreaming” which was adopted by the UN at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing. Although it did not solve the issue of gender discrimination against women completely , yet it helped raise their voice internationally to gain their rights.
The feminists' long struggle did not get the expected fruit of their hard endeavor, but it conveyed messages, taught lessons, and raised the first slogans that “Women are the poorest of the poor” and “Educating girls leads to economic development.” Such a new awareness enlightened men and women all over the world of the condition of women in male dominated society [Ibid., p. 3]. Intellectual circle started using a new term; The New Women concept offered a new challenging concept of womanhood that replaced the Victorian expectations of domesticity with a new vision of social, political, and economic autonomy and capacity [10, p. 1]. The New Women concept which was originally coined by Sarah Grand in her article “The New Aspect of the Woman Question,” was further popularized by Henry James to describe the growth in the number of feminists, educated, independent career women in Europe and USA. The concept influenced the early feminists in the 20th century. The New Woman concept pushed the limits set by male-dominated society, especially as modeled by the Norwegian Henrik Ibsin in his play A Doll ’ s House ( 1879 ). This ideology was an indication of women's rights for free choices in life and getting higher education, suffrage, and fair decent living [4, p. 1]. A new generation of feminist female authors also appeared to write about the most critical concerns of women. That meant challenging the previous mainstream literature which spotted women according to men's perspective and fantasies [9, p. xiv]. The feminist authors in Britain went through different stages starting with male pseudonyms such as George Eliot and culminating in a female protest at the 1820s. [Ibid. p. xiv].
It is worth mentioning that the feminist movement in Canada went through continuous levels of struggle to establish equal rights between men and women. The most important was the Quebec feminist movement which proved very important during the 1970s. According to Sherry Simon, a literary critic, that movement enhanced a historical and conceptual study of all types of discrimination and differences within the society. that movement was an attempt to defeat the historical incapacitation and alienation of women. It adhered to a modern image of feminist communication and existence. [8, p. 436]. The other movement was the Revolution Tranquille, the quiet movement, which highlighted a period of intense socio-political and socio-cultural changes in the Canadian Quebec. It also brought changes in women's self-understanding. Women started to challenge the traditional and stereotypical role assigned to them by their society. The mid 1970s witnessed an important development in women's literature. As feminist publishing houses were established. Louky Bersianiks, a French-Canadian author wrote L'Euguelionne (1976), a novel with a very remarkable story about a female alien who landed on earth. This female alien befriended some earthy women. The novel viewed women’s social life and their relationships with the other sex. it described the programmed discrimination conducted against women with sharp and witty comments by criticizing the Canadian government legislations and the inherent sex discrimination in its lose [Ibid., p. 438].
Alice Munro's life:
Munro was born in Wingham, Ontario in Canada in 1931. She was brought up in a rural environment. Wingham was a farming community populated by the descendants of Scottish-Irish immigrants [5, p. X]. Munro grew up in a poultry and sliver fox farm. Her mother was a former school teacher. Munro wrote at the times of World War II [12, p. 385]. Her family expected her to be mere a farmer wife, but, as an independent personality, she had a great passion for reading. In 1950 she started writing short stories on a regular basis, and she had a great popularity among American readers. Her stories got national and international recognition. She exerted a great effort to raise the profile of the Canadian short story [18, p. 205]. Munro's life was not an easy one. She struggled to support herself financially. Once she had to sell her blood to get living, and to read and enhance her knowledge about literature. Munro's reading to the works of Southern authors, such as, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty made her shape her literary style. The clarity and accuracy of her characterization are attributed by several critics to Anton Chekhov's [12, p. 385]. In most of her stories, Munro explored the psychological development of her female characters not only as women but as female artists. Her stories concentrated on the process in which a woman can trigger a quest for freedom and individuality [6, p. 32]. The short story genre is her major field of writing. The themes she tackled in her stories are those of women's perceptions, self-recognitions, and betrayal, that affect friends, lovers, and family members [20, p. 74]. However, the major themes remain as they are; how a woman develop her self-confidence to force her way forward for the attainment of a proper position in society. Munro exposes in her fiction the different barriers women face as a female. She centers her concerns on the sexual as well as economic liberation of women. As a female artist, she opposed the cultural domination of males and wanted women as individuals to get what they want [3, p. 70]. Munro was empowered by a great capacity to write about the things she observed in her life. Her talent lied in her ability to portray complex ideas about women's life in simply written stories.
- Quote paper
- Ahmed M. Hashim (Author), 2015, The Quest for a Feminist Identity in "The Office" by the Canadian Alice Munro, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/341608