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The Struggle For Women's Liberation in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

Nickell, Kelly B. and Baker, Moira P. and Ren, Michele and Kellogg, Amanda The Struggle For Women's Liberation in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. 2017. Radford University, Thesis. Radford University Scholars' Repository.

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Sylvia Plath and Margaret Atwood each have novels that are currently being brought to the big and little screens. A film-version of Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, is expected in 2018, while Hulu will be releasing their The Handmaid’s Tale at the end of this month. This thesis explores the relevance of the two novels in relation to the need for sustained feminist activism. The Bell Jar, first published in England under Plath’s pseudonym, Victoria Lucas, remains as Plath’s only novel among pages and pages of her poetry. Since Plath ended her own life before the novel was published in the U.S., many readers did not experience the novel until after her death when her family published the novel with Plath’s name on the cover. Plath’s novel provides readers an insight into the life of Esther Greenwood, a proto-feminist lonely in her quests to find what feminist theorist Helene Cixous calls an “elsewhere” away from patriarchal entrapment; that is, a space to explore her desire for advanced education, a fulfilling career, and a satisfying sexual life. Atwood’s novel, on the other hand, offers a response of the post-feminist generation which followed that of Esther’s proto-feminist one. Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale narrator-protagonist, is pleased with her rights regarding education, careers, and sexuality. Before the dystopian Gilead takes over the United States, Offred is only able to view feminist ideologies and activism in terms of her own complicated relationship with her mother. Both Plath and Atwood present the complex identities of women who struggle to navigate the competing messages about socially acceptable femininity coming not only from society, but from within themselves as well. Each text exemplifies the necessity for women to stand in solidarity with each other so that we all can reach our greatest human potential. Kelly B. Nickell, M.A. Department of English, 2017 Radford University

Item Type: Thesis
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Radford University > College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences > Department of English
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2017 18:56
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2023 18:23

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