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The Shaping of Women Characters in Almayer’s Folly

Author ZhangHui
Tutor WangSongLin
School Jiangxi Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Conrad Almayer’s Folly women characters
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
Downloads 31
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Joseph Conrad is a very important modernist writer at the turn of the 20th century. He is deemed as a“male-oriented”writer by most critics. The perspective, from which he is often criticized, however, is his portrait of women characters. Many critics even regard it a common sense that he is a misogynist without giving it a second thought.This thesis, however, is intended to have Almayer’s Folly as the evidence to show that Conrad is not really what many critics assumed him to be. By a thorough study of the shaping of women characters in Almayer’s Folly, this thesis aims to investigate Conrad’s perspectives towards women. A writer with special life experience, he lost his mother at a very early age and he seldom contacted with women in his twenty-year’s sea life. Knowing little about women, Conrad often depicts his women characters as mysterious and silent. Some critics overstate the influence of his mother’s death upon Conrad and thus conclude that he is afraid of women.With this consideration, this thesis is divided into five parts. The first part is a general literature review about the research and studies on Conrad home and abroad, especially about Almayer’s Folly. The second part pays special attention to the three important women in Conrad’s life: his mother Ewa Bobrowska, his aunt Marguerite and his wife Jessie. The three women influence Conrad greatly and offer much inspiration for women characterization in his works. The third part studies the women characters in Almayer’s Folly as moral and spiritual models. Nina, Mrs. Almayer and Taminah stand for three different moral, spiritual and political models. They all struggle to achieve their own values in the novel. In contrast to the male characters, they are the true heroes. The fourth part is about Conrad’s perspectives towards female as seen in Almayer’s Folly. By a careful analysis of the female characters in Almayer’s Folly, this thesis believes that Conrad is not a misogynist. In this novel, the women characters, especially those colored women, are more moral and powerful than the white men. His portrayal of women characters is of purposeful arrangement, to express his concern on social and political problems.It is undeniable that Conrad’s personal experience may have exerted great influences on the portrayal of his women characters. However, it is not fair to conclude that he is a misogynist. His women characters stand in moral opposition to their white male counterparts, and Conrad admires their courage to pursue true love and respects them for their faith in love. Women are portrayed as the center of the“Other”existence decrying men’s moral deficiencies. Conrad does not fear the women, nor does he hate women. If he really has some special feeling of women, I think it must be awe due to the“Otherness”of women. It is no exaggeration to say that the beautiful and intelligent women give the stronger vitality to Conrad’s works.

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