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The Search for Female Identity

Author WangWenJun
Tutor WuYueMing
School Nanjing Normal University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords Ecofeminist Criticism Willa Cather Female Identity Nature
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Willa Cather is a famous woman writer at the beginning of the 20th century in American Literature. O Pioneers! is one of her Nebraska works as well as the cornerstone of her literary fame. This thesis attempts to apply eco feminist criticism to interpret the women pioneers’ quest for self identity and their understanding of nature. By presenting the images of female pioneers, and eulogizing the great courage they have when they conquer the wild land.Ecofeminism is based on the assumption that there are critical connections between the anthropocentric domination of nature and the androcentric subjugation of women. It is hoped that in the pursuit of the liberation for both nature and women, the dominant dualisms rooted in the patriarchal culture: man/woman, human/nature will be subverted; in this way the realization of the harmonious relationship of human with nature can be achieved.In O Pioneers!, Mrs. Bergson is the representative of the obedient females of the first generation. She is a typical "Family Angel", who submits to the domination of her husband, and sticks to her role as housewife. During the tough pioneering process, she fails to identify the relationship between nature and her. For the second generation--Alexandra, the heroine of the story, is a strong willed, independent, and responsible woman, who is different from her mother. She gradually realizes the connection between women and nature and lives close to nature. Marie represents women of the third generation. She has the strong thirst for freedom and has a clear understanding of her social position. She fights with the patriarchy represented by her husband Frank. While Marie’s tragic love affairs with Emil also let us realize that in such a patriarchal society, it is still a long and hard way for women to pursue equality and freedom.

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