Dissertation
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The Importance of Motherhood in Women’s Identity Construction

Author ZuoYuYu
Tutor WuQiYao
School Shanghai International Studies University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Mrs. Dalloway character study motherhood female identityconstruction masquerade of motherhood
CLC H315.9
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Born into a Victorian family where maternal virtues were carried to the full by hermother, Woolf remained childless throughout her life. Motherhood, which on the onehand contains the unique mechanism of woman (for only a “she” could give birth),and on the other hand reflects the society’s relentless effort at confining a woman inthe role of a good mother, serves a perfect middle ground for the search of femaleidentity construction.Woolf’s special assortment of female characters evinced her superb understandingmotherhood plays in female identity construction. Trough a sociology-based study ofthe female characters in Mrs. Dalloway, this essay tries to offer a glimpse onmotherhood’s role in identity construction. It firstly analysis is made on two differentgroups of women in this novel: mothers whose identity construction is cramped bymotherhood, and childless women whose identity construction is severely affected bythe lack of motherhood. And then examines the nature of motherhood through theperfect mothers in Mrs. Dalloway presented with a psychological distance.Admittedly, women’s identity construction could be contributed to miscellaneousfactors, yet this essay tries to probe the influence of one factor, that being motherhood.It is found that while motherhood as an established role for women could help toregulate their identity construction, the exclusiveness of motherhood, nevertheless,threatens to rule out the possibilities of non-maternal qualities in women. Only whenmotherhood’s role is peeled from the core of women’s identity formation, couldchildless women stop being referred to as physically or psychologically pathological.And this would be a constructive factor for women’s identity formation in a morediverse and complicated modern context.

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