Anger and Rage in Novels Written from a Female’s Perspective
Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic offers a narration into the life of each female author during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The authors represent a form of passionate, exotic, and demonized approach to characterization in the novel. Gilbert and Gubar illustrate that authorship during the Victorian period was a patriarchal environment. Women had to struggle more to create professional identities as authors. To achieve the desired identity, female authors had to employ two extremes, either write in good and submissive language or portray images of mad women. As seen in the Madwoman in the Attic and Cinderella, women become mad due to the suppression of rage and anger associated with existing in a patriarchal society. The state of patience or tolerance tends to push women to their emotional and rational limits. Anger and rage are attributes that denote the author’s way of channeling female disagreement with patriarchal oppression.
The female point of view means having characters working with limited and oppressive spaces. The opening chapter of Gilbert and Gubar talks of the metaphor of literary paternity, which refers to the woman’s attempt to use the pen as intrusive. Through the analysis of Mary Coleridge’s feminist poem, the authors argue that female have an invisible sense of their autonomy, despite the patriarchal structure of the society (Gilbert and Gubar 16). While the female character faces the possibility of being silenced by society, they have a habit of defying authority due to decades of suppressed anger and rage. For female characters, anger is an emotional force for positivity. Anger and rage force women to channel their inner selves in ways that lead to autonomy. One can either channel their anger into becoming an angel or monster. Irrespective of the path chosen, the objective is always autonomy.
Cinderella is a good example of an angry character seeking to free herself from her wicked stepmother. The dreamy dress and the magical glass slippers tend to distract the reader from some important parts of the narrative. Cinderella is left at the mercy of her oppressive stepmother and stepsisters following the demise of her father. She is forced to become a household slave and never allowed to leave the house or interact. However, Cinderella never loses sight of who she is. The character does not let the mistreatment define her, and she never shields her heart from love. Cinderella is a character that channels her anger and frustration into fierce positivity. Cinderella opts to disobey her stepmother and attends the ball with the hope of meeting the prince. The disobedience denotes the resistance to patriarchy while the fierceness represents the invisible sense of autonomy.
The stepmother’s tendency to be cruel stems from her anger with the patriarchal society. Lady Tremaine is a widow left to fend for three young girls. The female character faces becoming poor in a society that does not appreciate the struggles of single motherhood. As a woman, she had to rely on her husband. Even as a widow, she has to rely on her daughter getting married to men for them to survive. The reliance on men is what turns Lady Tremaine sour. Nevertheless, she becomes cruel because of social and economic necessity. Tremaine’s cruelty is a reflection of her world and not her character. The wicked stepmother represents a passionate character that appears to have made different choices regarding the challenges the patriarchal society is throwing her way. Cruelty is an extreme response to the suppressed need to become autonomous.
Suppressed anger and rage represent the superficial moral of the narrative that long-suffering patience in female characters ends in autonomy. The fairy godmother is a character angry with the mistreatment of Cinderella. She gifts and rewards Cinderella with magic under the specific objective of getting her into an advantageous marriage. However, the fairy godmother embodies the same devotion the wicked stepmother shows to her two daughters. The godmother schemes and self-sacrifices to ensure Cinderella ends up married to the right man. Cinderella’s triumph at the ball does not only stem from her beauty but the stream of subversive acts shred between her and the fairy godmother. The tow characters disobey the stepmother, lie, hide, enlist forbidden help and pursue that which is prohibited.
The female character is a mysterious creature that embodies the image of an angel or monster at the surface. Decades of existing in ‘semanticized’ spaces tend to push women to their emotional and rational limits. Women become mad due to the suppression of rage and anger associated with existing in a patriarchal society. The female characters become angry due to their invisible sense of autonomy. Cinderella opts to disobey her stepmother and attends the ball with the hope of meeting the prince. On the other hand, in the absence of her husband, the over-reliance on men turns Lady Tremaine cruel. Gilbert and Gubar’s metaphor of literary paternity well informs on how anger and rage can be used to characterize and assess female characters in Victorian narratives.
Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic. Yale University Press, 1979.