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Thorny Self-actualization

Author MaZuo
Tutor RenQingMei
School Qufu Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie Commoditization Patriarchy Female self-actualization Radical Feminism Marxist Feminism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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Theodore Dreiser is a distinguished writer of the American literature in the twentieth century. His works have attracted readers all over the world. In the meanwhile, Dreiser is a popular figure in the literary critical field. His first novel, Sister Carrie, is regarded as a representative of naturalism and has long been a heating topic in academic research field in American literature. By now, the critics have elaborated Dreiser’s sister Carrie from a variety of perspectives, but few from the feminism systematically.With American society at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century as background, the novel witnesses the great changes of that time. The boom of industrialization changes people’s life style as well as their ways of thoughts, especially female thoughts. Sister Carrie juxtaposes the rise of a country girl into a celebrity with the decline of an affluent manager into a homeless bum. However, the capitalistic industrialization, consumerism and patriarchy thoughts unavoidably have a negative impact on woman. As an important branch of feminism, Radical Feminism treats patriarchy as the root of women’s oppression; Marxist Feminism lays emphasis on liberating women by means of getting financial independence. This thesis, choosing Radical Feminism and Marxist Feminism as perspectives, will analyze the oppression women suffer in the industrialized capitalistic society and in the patriarchal society. It will also analyze women’s predicaments resulted from their economic dependence on men and Carrie’s self-actualization process. The analysis will demonstrate the importance of getting rid of the family confinement and obtaining economic independence in women’s liberation.This thesis is composed of six chapters including the introduction and the conclusion.Chapter One is the introduction, which introduces Theodore Dreiser’s life, his achievements, the plot of Sister Carrie, the purpose of this thesis and its framework.Chapter Two is the literary review which introduces the theories of feminism and studies of this novel home and abroad. It provides the critical background for the following chapters.Chapter Three introduces social background of the novel-the capitalistic industrialization, and it also analyzes the oppression women suffer in such environment-the indifference among people, worship of money and spiritual alienation. Carrie, suffering the indifference among people, surrounded by the people’s worship of money, and not being independent on her economically, is easy prey to men.Chapter Four concentrates on the predicaments women suffer in the patriarchal society. It will discuss the negative impacts of the patriarchy on Minnie and Carrie-being caged in the domesticity, financial dependence on man, being the doll of men and their passivity. Minnie, as a traditional "Angel in the house", is confined in the family; she works hard but gains no pay, which places her in a position of subordinate wife. Carrie, being dependent on men and passive, has once been the doll of Drouet and Hurstwood.Chapter Five discusses the Carrie’s growth process from attachment to independence. Through the analysis, it reveals Carrie’s courage and shows the woman’s way-out:getting the financial independence and not being confined by family. It also demonstrates that Dreiser "if he was not a feminist, at least a fellow traveler" (James 181:534).The last part is the conclusion of this thesis. It includes the summary of this thesis, the theoretical contribution, the limitation and the trend of the study.The significance of the study includes three aspects. Firstly, the study will interpret Sister Carrie in a sound way. Through the analysis, the researcher wants people to be more familiar with the contents and the characters in this novel, not merely regard it as a naturalistic work. Secondly, this thesis tries to employ the concrete theories of feminists to analyze the text. Thus it will not only enrich the research on Theodore Dreiser’s works, but also enlarge the application of the theories of feminist in the literary criticism. Thirdly, this thesis explores women’s emancipation and it has a positive meaning in people’s realizing the importance of escaping from the family confinement and the financial independence. It intends to arouse woman’s awareness and help them treat themselves with appropriate attitudes.

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