菲利普•罗斯“美国三部曲”中女性人物的 美国梦

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Introduction Philip Roth and his American Trilogy As one of the most renowned and controversial American writers, Philip Roth (1933-2018) gains fame by portraying the American Jewish life in a humorous and satiric way. Within 80 years, Roth
Introduction
Philip Roth and his “American Trilogy”
As one of the most renowned and controversial American writers, Philip Roth (1933-2018) gains fame by portraying the American Jewish life in a humorous and satiric way. Within 80 years, Roth writes approximately 30 novels,which helps him to be one of the most awarded American novelists of his times.
Of all his works published, Roth groups American Pastoral, I Married a Cbmmwm•对 and to form the “American Trilogy” since they all
display Roth^ artistry in weaving personal destinies into the broad historical context of a country in different phases. In these three novels, Roth clearly depicts protagonists’ different American dreams and their inability to face the collapse of their idealized dreams when they confront historical realities. Whether they are called “Roth’s Problem Novels”(Shechner 142) or the “American Tragedies”(Lyons 125), the “American Trilogy” presents the process in which protagonists go through the pursuit, realization and disillusionment of their American dreams. Most scholars interpret the “American Trilogy” from the perspective of the male protagonists,with the analysis that each novel features a male protagonist with the American dream that is eventually deconstructed by a female character: Ira Ringold^ dream of seeking a politically progressive America merely leads to his political persecution imposed by his wife, Eve through tell-tale memoirs in / Married a Communist, Coleman Silk in The Human Stain, harbors a dream of living an equal and free life, and he finds himself hounded by politically correct machinations led by Delphine; and Seymour Levov in American Pastoral, indulging in his pastoral dream by being assimilated into mainstream society,is destroyed by his daughter Merry’s bomb in the radical anti-Vietnam War movement. However, the American dreams of the abovementioned women, their predicaments and their self-consciousness in the pursuit of their own dreams in the ‘‘American Trilogy” are of equal importance to the men’s dreams and should not be neglected. The further exploration of the womens dreams will provide an alternative explanation to comprehend Roth^ hidden thoughts and ideas in these
l
novels.
/ Married a Communist traces Eve5s path of pursuing her American dream of wealth and status as a silent-film star. The child of a poor Jewish family, Eve refuses to come to terms with her poverty; instead, hiding her family background, she makes every effort to become a perfect, upper-class lady with grace. Nevertheless, in this era when both Jews and women are discriminated against, Eve’s American dream, which is based upon her self-hatred to integrate into mainstream society and her dependence upon men both materially and spiritually, eventually turns out to be an unattainable Utopian fantasy. The Human Stain illuminates the process and dilemma of Delphine, a French-born and educated intellectual who pursues academic achievement after leaving France for the Americas. Although she achieves her dream to some extent by gaining the position of chair at Athena College, she does so at the expense of severing ties with her past and suppressing her sexual desires. Although she gains academic achievement for the time being, she constantly suffers from sexism from both her male colleagues and other female colleagues, eventually making her a spiritual wanderer. In contrast, Merry9s American dream in American Pastoral is much more radical than those of the above women. Merry’s repudiation of her father’s pastoral dream, based on her own dream of returning to the ideological essence of the American dream, is to recover a country with justice and freedom. Merry^ dream, built upon her identity confusion and distorted by her paternal family, will undoubtedly vanish for good when confronting the gritty reality of patriarchal culture. However, it cannot be denied that after she explores the "furthest boundaries of the self (Parrish 138),? during her pursuit of this dream, Merry, ends up as a Jain, and this helps her gain material as well as spiritual independence to a large extent.
An obvious similarity among Eve, Delphine and Merry is that all of them have pursued their own American dreams through their own efforts, but in the end, they have to accept the result that their displaced hope, facing the domination of patriarchal culture, will prove to be empty promises and American nightmares. However, during the process of pursuing their dreams, Eve, Delphine and Merry all experience an awakening of the self-consciousness to different degrees. Unlike the traditional image of domestic angels,who are equipped with such virtues as being “self-less” in the moral and psychological sense, the three female characters have the consciousness needed to have a story of their own and endeavor to rise from the status of the Other to the Subject.
Literature Review
Philip Roth is a fortunate writer whose first novel collection Goodbye, Columbus, won him enough prizes so that studies and research about him and his works have been undertaken during his lifetime. Therefore, critics pay much attention to his works, and the “American Trilogy’’,of course,is no exception. An outline of studies about the “American Trilogy”,both at home and abroad, can be listed as follows.
The American critic circle attaches great importance to Philip Roth, and the overseas studies about him are fairly satisfying both in quality and quantity, including over 20 research monographs, more than 500 academic papers and the Philip Roth Studies journal published by the Philip Roth Society. In addition, studies about the “American Trilogy” in its entirety are fairly comprehensive.
Apart from his status as a comical and satirical writer, earned from his early novels, Roth5s combination of farcical and tragic elements can also be found in the “American Trilogy”,with which Roth lampoons a complacent society that indulges in privileges and material success. Therefore, many scholars have conducted theoretical studies centering on the novels9 literary techniques. Elaine B. Safer, for instance, in her Mocking the Age: The Later Novels of Philip Roth, uses Roth?s usheer playfulness and deadly seriousness^ in her argument, digging out the grief and pains embedded in the parody, slapstick and irony in the “American Trilogy” to satirize the tragic ends of the protagonists and their inability to prevent their own destruction (1).
In addition, the study of identity is also an important aspect of studying the “American Trilogy”. In Chapter 13 of P/z//切 (9/? an
Author, Derek Parker Royal focuses his attention on the relationship between individual identity and national identity. In RoyaPs central argument, Roth, by writing individuals into the fabric of historical events, makes individual identity in the “American Trilogy” symbolize the both hopeful and tragic national identity threatened by the forces of history.
Moreover, the themes of the broken American dream and tragic elements are the most frequently discussed. Bonnie Lyons,in his “Philip Roth’s American Tragedies’’, regards these three novels as American tragedies and points out that each novel tells the story of a tragic hero whose fate is conditioned in a specific American historical background. Moreover, Mark Shechner,in his ‘‘Roth’s American Trilogy”,sets the keynote of the “American Trilogy” as “Blues in the Night”(142) and analyzes the woeful elements of the three novels. He concludes that Merry and her rebellion are essentially Swede’s own Jewish unconsciousness, and the death of the protagonists without any consolation emphasizes Roth?s fanaticism of disillusionment and that the bad dream at Athena College is from Roth?s own bad dreams.
In a gender study of the “American Trilogy”,Carina Staudte shows,from the viewpoint of athleticism and masculinity in the “American Trilogy” and G7/0对,
that the central sport penetrating the three novels embodies manliness and represents the change from being admired to being dismissed as a threat. However, Marshall Bruce Gentry analyzes American Pastoral from a different perspective, stating that the novel is developed with ua feminist subversion of its dominant male voices,5 (1). Highlighting Sweden acquiescence to unequal capitalism, tendency to compromise, and lack of genuine love for women, Gentry believes that the female characters in the novel are the true heroes and that they are allowed to overcome the restrictions in the house of fiction.
Domestic studies about Roth’s “American Trilogy” before 2000 are mainly commentary articles or analyze Roth and his works from the aspect of the Jewish identity. However, the quantity of relevant studies about the “American Trilogy” began rising rapidly after 2000, especially after 2010. All of the studies can be divided into three aspects: cultural studies, theoretical studies and thematic studies.
First of all, there are some studies dealing with the cultural aspects of the “American Trilogy”,which can be divided into the viewpoints of identity,race,and power. In “Seeking the True Self: The Issue of Identity in Philip Roth’s Novels”,Qu
Peihui discusses Roth?s interpretation and construction of cultural identity, further explores the identity crisis caused by the predicament between gentile culture and Jewish culture and emphasizes survival strategies to end the crisis. In the racial aspect, in Quest, Transgression and Loss: A Study on the Existential Condition of the Jews in Philip Roth's Later Novels, Meng Xianhua summarizes how Jews, regardless of constraints from conventions, are capable of transgressing the borders of the self, identity, race and so on, and explores the living conditions of Jews in postmodern society. The most comprehensive study of the power in the “American Trilogy” is Niu Hongmin’s paper. From the viewpoint of individuals’ fight for power in the historical and social background of the novels, Niu analyzes the power struggle between individuals and others and between individuals and society so as to underline the spirit of resistance and freedom found among individuals.
In addition to the culture-oriented essays above, there are other studies focusing on narratology and Neo-realism. In “The Analysis of Philip Roth’s American Trilogy from Narrative Perspective”,Zhang Jin endeavors to determine the connotation and subjects of Roth?s narration through the three aspects of the narrative point of view, narrative level and discourse time; Zhang also points out the American characteristics and human nature behind the “American Trilogy”. Additionally,it must be mentioned that in Transcending Jewishness, A Study on Philip Roth's Later Novels From a Neo-Realistic Perspective, the first domestic research monograph of Roth, Gao Ting connects the American historical background with ordinary human life to analyze the social reasons and themes of the ‘‘American Trilogy” from the Neo-realistic point of view.
Finally,of the various domestic studies on the “American Trilogy” that can be accessed, the majority focus on the works5 themes, and the most discussed themes are the American dream and betrayal. First, in uOn the Representation of the American dream in Philip Roth’s American Trilogy’’,by dealing with three forms of the national myth and the factors resulting in the protagonists9 disillusionment, Yin Lei concludes that it is ridiculous to lose one’s identity in pursuit of the national myth. Moreover, in “The Interpretation of the ‘Betrayal’ Theme in Philip Roth’s ‘American Trilogy’’’,Lin
Shene uses the Jewish tradition of the ‘‘ghetto’’ and uthe spirit of the ghetto”(II) to explain the protagonists’ failed pursuits of the American dream in their betrayal by others and themselves.
There does exist some domestic studies analyzing the female characters5 American dreams separately in these three novels. For instance, Jing Nanfei in his dissertation dissects Merry’s American dream along with Swede’s and Lou’s in dmerzcaw Pos1 如ra/. He states that, opposite to Lou’s Jewish dream of success and Swede’s American dream of assimilation, Merry’s dream of Anti-American dream, as an irreversible product of history, is what a generation would do to the previous generation. Meanwhile, He Wenjing touches upon the relation between the American dream and marginalized Americans by focusing on the African American Coleman, the Jewish Lester and the French Delphine with their respective dreams in Human Stain. By exposing that Delphine^ alienated state with her broken dream is caused by mainstream culture’s intolerance of European cultures, she concludes that the American dream is essentially deceitful and unattainable for marginalized Americans. Moreover, Chen Huixing in his work reveals what plights modern women are confronted with in the "American Trilogy59 by spotlighting three kinds of women: Eve, Faunia and Merry. However, he only centers upon their failures and tragic life in the male-dominated society, while neglecting the three female characters’ spirit of pursuing their versions of the American dream. Undoubtedly, these female characters have failed in achieving their own dreams, but it must be noticed that they have attempted and persisted, only to find that, from the beginning, they have already been excluded from the scope of those owning the right to pursue the American dream.
In a nutshell, while many critics delve into the disillusionment of the male protagonists9 American dreams, there are few studies providing a comprehensive interpretation of such female dreamers as Eve, Delphine and Merry. All of these women play significant roles, not only exerting great influence on protagonists but also contributing to the deconstruction of the American dream from a new angle. Moreover, it is during the process of pursuing their dreams that the self-consciousness of these three female characters is awakened, motivating themselves in their ideals of individual autonomy and the further exploration of their true identities. In view of that, this paper, from the viewpoint of feminist theories, will be devoted to the analysis of the three representative women who, although frustrated in a grim reality during their pursuit of the illusory American dream, exhibit their yearning to break the chains binding them in the role of domestic angels and to strive for independence to different degrees.
Theoretical Basis
Beauvoir’s “Woman as the Other”
Beauvior puts forward the concept of uWoman as the Other^ in her The Second Sex, with the observation that throughout history, man is defined to be the Subject and the Absolute while woman is relegated the unimportant Other because of no reciprocity between the sexes. Woman’s predicament as the Other, Beauvoir explains, is either due to her being imposed upon the current status by male authorities or because of her willingness to be men’s conspirator with the latter’s economic support. Thus, woman is kept in an endless circle of feeling inferiority while man asserts that she is inferior. Although every subject is able to achieve his liberty through a mode of transcendence, woman, defined as the eternal feminine, is excluded from those who can.
In the chapter titled “Prostitutes and Hetairas” of Book Two, Beauvoir spotlights the situations of prostitutes and hetairas and explores how they are dominated in their submissive position without the chance of gaining personal sovereignty. Compared with prostitutes, the high-class hetaira may seem more fortunate without the necessity of selling her body. However, through closer scrutiny, the seeming success of the hetaira is also built upon her dependence on men; otherwise, seeing her prestige growing dim will be her doomed destiny once losing the male support. According to Beauvior^ definition, the film star is almost equal to the hetaira since she, with sexual appeals and prominence, also exploits her essential feminine nature to pander to male desires and gets paid for her sacrifice. Enduing her passive femininity with magics, the film star is able to catch men^ attention and win her economic independence since having men paid for her is almost equivalent to rendering men an instrument while she herself avoids being one. However, what is concealed behind the seeming independence is actually her nature of being dependent and inferior. Although no man seems in possession of her, the hetaira is in urgent need of men to support her material success. As long as she insists upon being a film star, the hetaira will be forever mired in the state of seducing the public and men continuously. Meanwhile, Beauvior also argues that the famous film star exploiting men is actually indulged in the worship upon herself since what attracts her in the great reputation will not be economic benefits but the rewards of her narcissism in fame. Women often turn to narcissism due to her frustration as subject without the opportunity to be recognized by the outside world. But the very fact that she will turn to herself for desires has already suggested her objectification since man finds it unnecessary. Thus, woman is reduced to the position where she can only feel to be an individual subject in the imaginary double with self-deception. Even worse, the narcissist woman will sever the relation with the actual life since her sense of sovereignty cannot be found in the concrete world. At the expense of reality, the narcissist who identifies herself with the imaginary double will undo herself.
Gilbert and Gubar’s “Angelic and Demonic Women”
In Gilbert and Gubar’s exploration of female writers’ dilemma in the patriarchal culture, they propose that, with male writers dominating the texts, female ones are prevented from attempting the pen and that traditional women have been imprisoned in male texts generated to satisfy male expectations. Thus, female characters are given life, but deprived of the power of independent speech by the male writer who reduces female figures to two extreme images of “angel” and “monster” .
On the one hand, since women have been imprisoned in male texts, domestic angels are generated under male authors9 pens to be Eternal Feminine. Qualified to be “the ideal of contemplative purity”(23) , a domestic angel is void of the capability to own a story of her own, and instead shall possess the arts of pleasing men by sacrificing herself. On the other hand, the image of the monster-woman is introduced to expose that male authors9 depiction of numerous monstrous women is an implication of their anxiety and worries about female autonomy. Meanwhile, Gilbert and Gubar mention that the existence of monster-woman exactly echoes the fact that inside every domestic angel inhabits an enraged self with autonomy and subjectivity hidden behind. Unlike the angel-woman dedicated to the life of ''contemplative purity,5? the monster-woman displays the traits of violence and seeks the life of “significant action”(39),threatening to replace her angelic sister with her intransigent female consciousness and aggressiveness. But any demonic woman who desires to launch female rebellions will pay the price, since her life of ‘significant action’ is a life that violates the patriarchal culture and must be silenced by it.
And based on Gilbert and Gubar’s image of the monster-woman, Caron E Gentry^ analysis of the monster narrative focuses on explaining why politically violent women are always depicted as mentally disordered monsters incompetent of normal social interaction. Because woman are supposed to nurture, those do commit violence and killing, excluded from the gendered norms of ideal types of womanhood, will be certainly categorized as monsters. Instead of digging out the motivation behind women’s political violence, the monster narrative tends to depict violent women as those afflicted with pathological insanity or biological flaws disrupting their prescribed feminine norms. More importantly, the monsterization of violent women “masks the fear of the other sex” (93) since their deviance from the supposed womanhood threatens men^ imagination. Besides, Gentry exposes the nature of the monster narrative by claiming that comparing violent women to a monster is also the discrimination that denies women’s choice and their very humanity.
The American Dream
The American Dream in its narrow sense is a promise of prosperity and success provided to American individuals who are willing to work diligently and obey the rules. In the broad sense, it also refers to the national ethos of the United States with the ideals of democracy, liberty and equality so that individual merit can find its place in the open and fair environment.
Although the American dream made promises of equality and liberty to everyone willing to work hard, many were always barred from the full access to it for a long time in the American history. By dissecting the reality and plausibility of the American dream from the angles of history, politics, and fiction, Calvin C. Jillson poignantly laid bare the fact that “three-quarters of the American adult population—poor white men, nonwhite men, and women of any color—rarely even imagined that striving and achievement were open to them”(265). Put it another way, the American dream exclusively belonged to propertied, white males, while the poor, blacks and women were blocked on their path to dreams. Even if those excluded and marginalized did seize their rights over the course of history, those rights were only equivalent to the power of defending themselves against the privileges acquired by well-entrenched white males in the normalizing system. The origins of the American dream can be found in religion, politics and economics. However, these religious, political and economic origin all denied women the chance to share in the promises of the American dream.
First of all, the religious origin of the American dream can be located in the arrival of the Mayflower bringing the first English Puritans to the New World in 1620. The puritan work ethic that only through diligence, discipline and frugality can believers serve the God best contributed a lot to the American myths. But, the city upon a hill held by puritan fathers excluded their own wives and daughters out of the vision, rendering them a subordinate and dependent position. The tenets of puritanism with regard to gender relations can be found in the Puritan poet John Milton^ definition in his classic Paradise Lost: “He for God only,she for God in him”(22). In this sense, religious assumptions held women in subjection and had wives behave in deference to husbands. Even worse, womens voice of challenging male authorities was powerless, since even the marginalized women, convinced by religious beliefs, considered their obedience to husbands natural and lawful.
The American dream had deep roots in politics as well. By the late eighteenth century, the Founding generation set down America’s self-image and its political creed through the Declaration of Independence, which ensured everyone^ liberty and equality of pursing unalienable rights. Although the promise of equal opportunities was made, notions of gender differences obstructed women from enjoying the basic fairness, since laws concerning education, work and so on were always in men^ favor. While education functioned to offer men the means of controlling their lives to achieve their dreams, most women were educated to perform their “special” female roles in the family. In this sense, as long as the purpose of education for women was associated with the cult of womanhood,women’s equal rights of having access to higher education were denied and thus they were left far behind the goal of realizing the American dream. Meanwhile, with the dominant ideology of separate spheres, labor laws, instead of centering on the economic inequality, tended to assign women to the private world. Once women’s demand of work was in contradiction with the needs of their families, laws always encouraged women to solve the conflict by supporting their family responsibilities. Thus, men’s position of the breadwinners was facilitated while women were degraded to lower work status and deprived of any chance to develop her potentials and attain economic independence.
The economic origin of the American dream derived from the American Westward Movement, during which the equal competition among individuals was promoted and the American spirit of innovation and adventure was forged. Nevertheless, in the system of free competition, women, classified into the group of children and idiots, belonged to members of dependent classes and were believed to lack enough capacities to compete in the society. According to the faculty psychology of that time, women were born to be more irrational and delicate with biologically inferior brains and their natural capacity of nurturing fitted them for the domestic life while superior men were most suitable for the public marketplace. In the Gilded Age when social Darwinism with its survival-of-the-fittest theory dominated the cultural and economic field, the very fact that women were excluded from personal achievement was made more glaring because they were not so fortunate as white men to be engaged in the sharp competition. Apart from being kept at home by fathers or husbands, those who chose outside had few options to maintain themselves except ending up between poverty and the street.
In conclusion, promisingly as the American dream defined, women always remained outside the scope of those allowed to enjoy individual rights and have the autonomy to achieve their American dreams. Based on the religious and ideology that women also shared, women’s role in the society was thus fixed and they were satisfied with their state of subjection first to their fathers until marriage and then to their husbands after marriage. Meanwhile, it was made clear that political laws, the fierce economic market and circumstance all implicitly bonded women to the domestic service since being a domestic angel was the eternal femininity that conformed to male authorities. The ideologically gendered division of labor, which allowed men to strive in the public sphere and confined women within the domestic arena, had the deterministic force to deny them the chance to get close to their dreams. Therefore,women’s pursuit of their American dreams was always confronted with the pressure from the patriarchal authority. But paradoxically, what gives birth to womens independent visions is the pressure of male domination while the deterministic force preventing them from realizing their dreams is also from the patriarchal culture. On the one hand, their ambition of self-invention to pursue their autonomy is caused by their awakening of self-consciousness as an independent individual to shake off the chains from male rulers; on the other hand, the very fact that women have been dominated by male rulers for such a long time predetermines the demise of womens dream since the dream will eventually be strangled by women’s own inclination to depend upon men.
Thesis Structure
To approach the novel from a feminist perspective, the thesis, focusing on the theme of women’s American dreams,is mainly divided into three chapters. Chapter one discusses the three female characters’ pursuit of their different dreams. Eve’s individual desires epitomized in her American dream guide her out of the confined domestic sphere, thus challenging the traditional notions of labor division. Based on Mark Shechner’s article on the relationship of the “we” and “I”,this chapter also reveals how Delphine’s American dream exhibits her volition of refashioning the “I” by severing the burdens of the “we” in a new environment. And Gilbert and Gubar’s work on the image of the “angel” functions to expose the motivation driving Merry to
realize her American dream of justice and equality.
Chapter Two aims to clarify the exterior reasons leading to the demise of their dreams. To explore Eve’s broken dream, it is necessary to adopt Beauvior’s analysis of woman’s secondary position before her husband and children. Apart from Eve’s sexual identity that suppresses her personal desires, her ethnic identity also prevents her from integrating into the WASPish society. In addition, with related works on women’s plight in the education and workplace, the thesis aims to uncover how Delphine is blocked on the path of being an independent intellectual in America. Meanwhile,based on Erickson’s identity confusion and Gentry’s monster narrative, this chapter explains why Merry’s dream is opposed and smashed ruthlessly by her family and society.
Chapter Three pinpoints the three female characters9 certain self-consciousness as well as their predicament of securing the autonomy. Beauvoir^ dissection of the high-class hetaira is suitable for analyzing Eve’s dependence upon men since her career as a renowned film star, which seems to help her acquire economic independence, ultimately makes her a suppliant to men materially and spiritually. To analyze Delphine’s downfall,theories about the male gaze are of great use since she always lives under the gaze of others to modify her behavior and presence. Although she does have the consciousness of fighting against the male authority, Delphine cannot help losing the autonomy to pander to male desires and winding up as a voluntary object of the spectacle. As for Merry5s unfathomable fate, the politics of the body can be adopted to explore her volition of rebelling against the dominant cultural norms. In the form of obesity first and anorexia later, Merry is launching her battle against the traditional ideology of femininity and voicing her hunger for power and autonomy. Although much more has to be done before Merry finds her identity as a woman and individual, progress has been made in varying destinies of the three female characters.
Chapter One Pursuit of the American Dream
According to the long inhabited definition of the American dream, people pursuing it always attempt to seek success through personal struggles and efforts in America, the land of opportunities and equality. Just as James Truslow Adams who first coined it claimed, the American dream is a promising land full of opportunities for everyone based on ability (qtd. in Jillson 5). Similarly, Calvin C. Jillson approaches the term by defining that the American dream holds out its promise that those willing to learn, work and observe the rules will have the equal chance to prosper in America (ix). But Jillson also makes it clear that the poor, blacks and women are blocked on the way to realizing their dreams. To be more specific, the individual pursuing the American dream is always presented as a propertied white male, thus excluding women from the possibility of enjoying their independent success. However, women of self-consciousness, which shall be synonymous with male individuals with ambition and diligence, provide themselves with the chance of realizing their dreams (Jillson 36). Thus, this chapter explores what kind of the American dream the three female characters in the “American Trilogy” respectively harbor. In light of related works on gendered labor division, this chapter first reveals how Eve, different from those constrained by the matrimony in the traditional sense, holds to her dream of wealth and status as a silent-film star; the second section focuses upon how Delphine with the willpower of being a self-made woman in The Human Stain endeavors to achieve a dream of becoming an American intellectual on her own; and with the adoption of Gilbert and Gubar works on the extreme images of “angel” and “monster”,this chapter also describes the process of how Merry,with the awakening of the self, breaks through the shackles of “Eternal Feminine” to pursue her own dream of justice as a radical revolutionary.
1.1Eve: Dream of Wealth as a Film Star
While the American dream promises prosperity and success to every individual willing to work hard, women are usually excluded from the scope of those enjoying the freedom to pursue their own dreams. That is to say, the chance of mastering their own destinies mainly belongs to male individuals, since most women lack the liberty to control their lives in the society dominated by the notions of gender differences. Nevertheless, just as Eve who struggles to rise from poverty to pinnacle through personal efforts, women with self-consciousness shall also be included within the circle of American individuals and allowed the full access to the American dream. Although Horatio Alger heroes are prevalent, the stories of impoverished girls such as Eve struggling for lives of potential greatness shall not be denied within “rags-to-riches” narratives.
Perceived from this perspective, Eve^ consciousness of mastering her own destiny can be first found in her refusal to remain in her poor family without any progress. As is revealed by the novel, Eve comes from an immigrant family arriving destitute and uneducated in America. While all of her family members who can only speak Yiddish are afraid of integrating into the hostile mainstream society, Eve is the only one to overcome the barriers by making her own opportunities through learning English and self-educating. In this sense, Eve?s determination of driving herself towards upward mobility makes it clear that a woman of self-consciousness is also able to rise by the dint of her own efforts.
By dealing with womens status in the family, E. McBride and Janine A. Parry in their work reveal that the traditional division of labor in the family is guided by the ideology of gender differences. Therefore, men^ individual success is at the expense of womens liberty, since women suffer an unequal burden by shouldering excessive family responsibilities. While men dominate the public sphere, women are left to handle the private sphere, so male individuals are insensitive to the reality that allows them to exploit women with a sense of innocence. And that explains why for Sylphid, Pennington who abandons the family is regarded as the most charming and delightful father in all of Hollywood, while Eve who racks her brains to bring her up is deemed as an irresponsible mother. In order to seize the fate in her own hands, Eve refuses to terminate her career as the film star even after the birth of Sylphid, which allows her to be active in both the public and private sphere. Nevertheless, the conventional regulation of women’s American greatness confines Eve within the domestic sphere, and once Eve transgresses the boundary, her effort in realizing the dream is distorted as egoism. In this perspective, Eve differs from other traditional women who entirely forfeit their independence after embracing the bonds of marriage. Instead, by refusing to surrender her individual desires to the private sphere, Eve continues her career as the film star, maintains her economic independence and thus challenges the traditional scope of labor division.
To be more specific, Eve’s American dream is to live a perfect American life with wealth, fame and social status by climbing the social ladder through efforts and dedicating herself to the projection of assimilation into the mainstream life, particularly into the high living of the WASP culture. Although her struggle for the equality of sharing the promise is difficult, Eve makes effort by adhering to her dream, with a successful career, beautiful house and a perfect family life as the icon. The first time Eve is mentioned in the novel, her role of significance is presented before readers as the leading lady of a renowned playhouse, indicating the fact that Eve’s achievement as a famous silent-film star is recognized by the public. Thus,Eve’s accomplishment in her career epitomizes her efforts to leave her lowly origin far behind according to the American spirit of self-reliance, which brings herself closer to the dream of successful assimilation. The second image that foregrounds her American dream is Eve’s house on West Eleventh Street, echoing Marx Weber’s presumption that uone of the culminating signs of American capitalistic success is in the acquisition of an ideal home”(qtd. in Stanley 32). Thus,the symbol of Eve’s American success is exhibited in her ownership of an all-American house. The house on West Eleventh Street, decorated with thousands of books, records and paintings bound up with high living, is the “luxury liner of haven, the last disturbed”(/MC 111) in Zuckerman?s memory, and the premise upon which Eve is granted with a sense of privilege, signifying her social status acknowledged by the upper class and smooth assimilation into the WASPish society. In constructing her ideal home of high culture, and having it work,Eve believes that she has “replicated the ideals of America” (Pattison 231) so as to have her equilibrium undisturbed in the house of her own. And the last image as the component of Eve’s dream is embedded in her pursuit of a perfect family life, with an accomplished husband and an angelic daughter. Eve’s four marriages, with her change of four husbands, are her pursuit of a merrier marriage and an ideal husband. Unlike a traditional woman who surrenders to her doomed fate bonded to the marriage, Eve endeavors to seek a husband who can grant her an idealized life of wealth, love and vitality. Besides,Eve’s American dream is also invested in her mothering an angelic daughter, which will be the means to and the realization of her imagined perfect family life. In naming her daughter uSylphid,,? Eve pins upon her great hope that Sylphid, with both physical and inner lightness, should be the angel devoid of all the vices.
To conclude, Eve’s persistence in her American dream, indicative of her pursuit of autonomy and success, confronts the socially biased definition of labor division and dream pursuers. Nevertheless, while she glories in being an “all-American”,her efforts turn out to be vain as it is only an illusion predestined by the larger patriarchal society.
1.2Delphine: Dream of Success as an Intellectual
Casting herself as the antithesis of the protagonist, Delphine in The Human Stain is the antagonist who in her self-righteousness brands Coleman as a misogynist and racist. As Mark Shechner puts it, Delphine, just as the demonic Merry in American Pastoral, exists as the ''consummate Lilith^ (195) who functions to deconstruct the protagonist’s dream of refashioning himself. Nevertheless, Delphine also shares similarities with her opponent Coleman in the pursuit of their own dreams. Not only do they endeavor to assimilate into the mainstream society as an American intellectual with accomplishment acknowledged in the academic field, they also attempt to gain freedom as the ‘‘greatest of the great pioneers of the I” decoupled from the “tyranny of the we and its we-talk^ (HS 108).
In terms of the relationship between “I” and “we”,Shechner finds that the great American myth lies in the possibility of “claiming your unique T” while breaking free of the “demands and expectations of a 4we”’(194). In other words,the “we” implies the cloying group-think or the external demands that impose restricts upon the individual’s potential of attaining his/her uncompromised self-hood. In contrast, the claim of an “I” requires the self’s capability to make its own destiny and helps the individual get closer to the realization of the American dream.
And Delphine^ American dream exactly exemplifies her self-reliance by combating “the tyranny of the we” to fashion an independent “I”. Indeed,the reason why Delphine, who is qualified to live a life of being envied all her life, chooses to leave her homeland France to chase her dream in the new land is attributed to the constraints from the “we”. Just as Ross Posnock notes,the “we” in Delphine’s case is her “distinguished lineage”(232),a family history of ancient nobility and aristocracy. While Delphine^ father Monsieur Roux is an engineer managing a company of forty employees, Madame Roux is a scholar of both medieval French and harpsichord literature with many honors that can be explored in the meaningful “etc.” (//S 158). Although cultivated by the elite French schooling, Delphine has always been living under the shadow of her family ideals,with the domination of uits we-talk” that demands children absolutely conform to the same stifling values. As Delphine herself poignantly exposes, what the pure and ancient Walincourt family respects is not the values of individuals but the traditions of the family. Therefore, realizing that she is unable to make a real success under the inescapable coercion of the “we”,Delphine makes an ambitious determination to explore a new world in America, with the liberation of the oppressed “I” with the oppressing “prison” of her family.
Delphine^ rejection of taking the prescribed view of herself and decision to make a new self in the new environment are resonant with the concept of the American dream: “the object of the dream being...a new self because a new world” (Hume 9). For Delphine, America is the land full of equal opportunities and liberty to master her own destiny as an independent'T' and make an academic adventure bereft of the past shadows of the uwe5\ The vision of independence Delphine adheres to is
best exemplified in her decision to remake herself with the belief that
UI will go to America and be the author of my self, she says; I will construct myself outside the orthodoxy of my family^ given, I will fight against the given, impassioned subjectivity carried to the limit, individualism at its
best...231)
And passing is the means Delphine adopts to achieve academic success in a male-dominated college. Although passing often refers to uthe possibility of race change”(Rankine 101) for colored people to fit into the “white” society, the trope of passing by extension can also speak for all Americans who pass for what they are not. Essentially, as Rankine points out, the significance of passing lies in allowing individuals to escape from a deterministic, social blight. In this sense, Delphine^ passing can be interpreted as an act of self-construction when the odds against her come from both the family history and the male-dominated academic environment. Thus, to attain the independent success of her academic career, Delphine passes for what she is not by throwing off her family history and repressing her sexuality. As an act of defiance, passing is Delphine^ individual choice which does bring about social benefits. When prepared to seek a satisfactory job in a big university, albeit turned down by multiple colleges, Delphine with the belief of affirming her autonomy is eventually admitted into Athena College. Moreover, as an American intellectual advocating the latest literary theories, Delphine defeats Coleman in the academic sense by climbing up to the chair of the Department of Languages and Literature at a young age.
Bereft of the bondage from the “we”,Delphine arrives in America with the dream of claiming her unique UI,5 and being recognized as a female intellectual in the America academia. Eventually, with her persistent efforts condensed in her academic credentials and the position of department chair, albeit precariously and for the time being, she does make it as she imagines herself as uself-made. Nobody knew her. Made herself9 (/7S 234).
1.3Merry: Dream of Justice as a Revolutionary
As is depicted in the novel, after Merry becomes keen on political activities as the “Ho Chi Levov” with her all energies unleashed, she is no longer deemed as the domestic angel dedicated to “the ideal of contemplative purity”(Gilbert and Gubar 232) but as an innocent angel who has been deceived into having the poison. Except that almost all the characters in the novel interpret Merry as a demonic existence, many critics also assert that Merry as the “Rimrock Bomber” is to blame for flushing her family out of the ideal pastoral life without any rational reasons.
However, even Merry5s counterpastoral impulse paradoxically involves a different version of pastoral yearnings, that is, a passionate quest for an ideal country purged of injustice and hegemony. According to Frederick KarPs analysis, some radicals in the sixties were driven uby a pastoral dream in their desire to transform or even withdraw from a technological, capitalistic civilization that they perceived as a tool for injustice and domination”(qtd. in Stanley 6). Thus,Merry,swept by the radical movement of the sixties and attracted by the ideology promising equality and justice, harbors a dream of overthrowing American imperialism to defend the interests of those oppressed and underprivileged. Merry^ American dream is a different one, which is to abandon the absurdity and paradox accompanying the development of the American dream and transform it to the one promised in the Declaration of Independence. While Lou Levov pursues the American dream in his traditionally Jewish manner, Swede in his all-American means, Merry, leaving the Jewish family traditions and American mainstream culture behind, locates her dream in the advocacy of an opposite inclination in a radical and violent way to attack uthe materialism of a hegemonic culture that ignores the poverty and powerlessness of the disenfranchised” (Stanley 12).
Although her dream differs from that of the above two female characters5 ? it cannot be denied that her dream demonstrates her female consciousness. Merry’s dream by means of radical violence indicates her revolt against the static image as the angel-woman and her self-consciousness that has been awakened. According to Gilbert and Gubar analysis, since traditional women have been imprisoned in male texts, female characters are given life, but deprived of the power of independent speech by the male writer who reduces female images to two extreme images of “angel” and “monster”. And the “angel” refers to women imprisoned in male texts and generated under male authors’ pens to be “Eternal Feminine”(21).
In Merry’s case, her mother Dawn is emblematic of the domestic angel who shall be equipped with such virtues as “self-less” both in the moral and psychological sense.
With the same standard, this former Miss New Jersey pins great expectation upon her daughter by requiring Merry to be the same domestic angel. One important aspect testifying to Merry’s surrender to the pleasure of others is that Merry caters to her mother’s interest by passively taking the lessons of ballet,riding and tennis. In this aspect, Merry is treated by as a passive creature “void of generative power” and confined to be indulged in the angelic self within the one side of the mirror (Gilbert and Gubar 21). On the other hand, her father Swede is the other force that compels Merry to be the angel without a story of her own. Noticeably, Sweden American dream of living a pastoral life in the stone house is based on the sacrifice of Merry’s autonomy. What he injects into the family are not his real emotions, but his efforts in preserving his version of paradise where his daughter exists only to content and fulfill his imagination. Thus, in the growth of Merry, Swede all the time deems Merry to be his own property instead of an independent individual, and cultivates as well as confines Merry in many aspects to meet his requirement of an angelic daughter. Merry5 s limited choice of the religious belief is the best example to affirm that her spiritual freedom is much repressed by her father. When Merry is in her Catholic fever which may annoy her grandfather, Swede will come out to interfere by having her clear all relevant trinkets out of the house to satisfy him. Aiming at that what little Merry can do is to “devote herself to the good of others”(24) in Gilbert an Gubar’s words, Swede exerts his patriarchal power to forcibly determine Merry’s inclination without any awareness of his coerciveness. In other words, Merry, before detonating the bomb, is in alienation from the self and void of the capability and consciousness to live an independent life as a free individual.
Therefore, refusing to be the “Angel of Death” signifying the sacrifice of the self and the loss of her personal comfort, Merry resorts to her dream of radical movement as the extreme way of launching her war against her angelic mask. In her American dream, Merry not only invests her future of seeking the justice by identifying herself with the underprivileged, but also injects her longing for independence and sovereignty. Therefore, instead of submitting to the silence of domesticity, Merry
through her rebellious bomb usurps the characteristics of self-assertiveness and aggressiveness from men and seeks the power of self-articulation in her own dream.
To conclude,this chapter explores the three female characters’ American dream respectively. Eve’s dream of rising from poverty to pinnacle as a silent-film star challenges the gendered labor division and distinguishes her from other married women imprisoned within the private space. In Delphine^ dream of gaining academic success in America, she attempts to claim an uncompromised “I” unbounded by the chains of the “we”. Merry’s American dream puts emphasis on an ideological quest for a purified America promising justice and equality. And during her pursuit of the dream,Merry’s self-consciousness is unveiled as she tears the angelic mask suppressing her true nature. In the process of chasing their dreams, all these three share a similar motivation of trying to get rid of the bondage of the past and live a more idealized and free life through their own efforts in the future. The three female characters, despite of their setbacks confronting their future, all dedicate themselves to the cause of attaining their sovereignty and realizing such ambitions as material wealth, academic accomplishment and social justice.
Chapter Two Disillusionment of the American Dream
This chapter examines the exterior reasons preventing the three female characters from achieving their dreams. Although the opportunity to rise in society is promised to everyone, the American dream, in essence, belongs solely to white, middle-class males and denies the equal chance to women who desire to have a shot at the top. The patriarchal forces inherent in the American dream impose restricts upon women and go against their will of achieving the autonomy by disillusioning their dreams. Based on Beauvoir^ works, the first section reveals how Eve is reduced to immanence with her dream of status and fame shattered. And relying on the works about gendered education and workplace, this chapter unfolds how the self-reliant female academic Delphine eventually ends up being isolated and uprooted in the American land. Meanwhile, with the adoption of Erik Erikson^ identity confusion and Caron E. Gentry’s monster narrative,this chapter also spotlights how Merry’s justification of participating in the political activities is denied, and why the girl in identity confusion is characterized as a monster-woman.
2.1Eve’s Predicament as a Jewish Woman
The disillusionment of Eve’s dream arises from her multiple predicaments as a Jewish woman, who is compelled to confront the challenges brought by her sexual and ethnic identity. Since the American dream is more open to wealthy white men than to women, the poor and minorities, Eve^ sexual identity as a woman and ethnic identity as a poor Jew both contribute to the difficulty of achieving her American dream. Her poor Jewish background and thirst for independence urge her to seek the way out and forge an independent life, but without enough vista opens for women, Eve chooses marriage as the only means of enhancing and solidifying her social strata. Nevertheless, there never exists a condition of reciprocity between Eve and her four husbands in the marriage. Meanwhile, her role as the mother of Sylphid further obstructs her will of securing the autonomy, only rendering her a masochistic mother enslaving Sylphid and herself to an abnormal relationship. And what worsens Eve^ situation is the self-hatred of her own ethnic identity, which ultimately leads to the demise of her dream.
In the era when occupations available to women are either poorly paid or void of transcendence, Eve, a woman of humble origin struggling to pinnacle, has limited choice but to rely upon marriage. Thus, looking for a husband above her status to accumulate wealth within the combination becomes the shortcut for a woman to make a quick success. Correspondingly,marriage for Eve is a “more advantageous career” through which she escapes the condition of remaining a parasite in her father’s home in Beauvoir^ words (420). Nevertheless, instead of bringing her a footing of equality, Eve’s multiple marriages also make her a slave of her husbands’.
It is perceptible that Eve’s marriage with Pennington is built upon a deceptive contract which transforms the marriage into rights and duties. Since the purpose of marriage for Pennington is to hide away that he is a gay and for Eve is to consolidate her social status, their marriage becomes instrumental and thus degrading with these two treating each other in the general aspect as bodies. And put under the social customs, Eve as the wife is "basically general^and thus her individualized desires are assumed to be “ethnic impure”(Beauvior 424). One prominent example is Eve’s predicament in reconciling work and family after the birth of Sylphid. In Eve’s own confession to Ira, social prejudice towards women exerts a great influence upon hindering her from working outside after having a baby. As indeed, Eve’s individualized desires included in her Hollywood dream are always in great conflict with her family responsibility. While no one expresses dissatisfaction towards Pennington who works outside everyday, Eve’s act of leaving her baby to the governess is denounced by everybody who brands her as ua bad mother, a neglectful mother, a selfish mother^ (IMC 80). Since the exterior requirements confines them with the domestic sphere, women are blocked on their way to their dream of rising in the society independently. Thus, Eve as the wife is forcibly reduced to immanence and devoted to a world of stable equilibrium avoiding the menace of instability. And what can best exemplify Eve^ confinement within the conjugal sphere is indicated by her extravagant house on West Eleventh Street in which she attempts to find self-realization. Eve’s emphasis on the decoration of the house evokes what Beauvoir assumes to be uthe expression of her social value and of her truest self9 (437). The more attention Eve pays to the house, the more easily the house will collapse since the inside world Eve aims to conquer is impossible to sustain after she renounces the outside world. And by inviting the public to bear witness to her seemingly high standard of living through holding parties, Eve clings to what she has in the house, encloses herself in immanence and can do nothing but to find little affirmation of independence within the domestic life.
Noticeably,Eve’s duty as the wife is unable to provide her with autonomy as an individual and ultimately leads to her dependence upon the male and child, especially during the fourth marriage with Ira. As vividly depicted in the novel, Eve resorts to finding justification in Ira by being attached to Ira’s universe and belonging to his religion, class and circle. During the big party held especially to cheer Ira up, Eve^ disadvantage in the power of discourse manifests itself not only in her cautious service of Ira’s political circle but also in her submissive attitude towards Ira’s anger. Compared with Ira’s strong and natural voice that commands “You just listen to me’’, Eve’s week and soft voice that is “barely audibly” vividly demonstrates Eve’s loss of authority in the house (IMC 123). And that also explains Eve^ capricious and coquettish behavior after Ira chooses to separate. After Eve is reduced to a position of a suppliant, tears and hysteria in her “completely screwy performance, pure exaggerated invention”(173) are the only means for Eve to give vent to her emotions. Eve^ capricious attitude seems to exploit Ira by means of exaggerated cries, but actually it is Ira?s ignorance of her individual interests that torments both of them. Put it another way, under the regulation of the masculine code serving the males, Eve^ role as the wife has already manifested itself in its imploring and secondary position and thus prevents her from achieving her American dream as a free individual.
Except that Eve’s role as the subordinate wife is in conflict with her individualized desires, her identity as the mother of Sylphid also restrains her from getting close to her American dream. According to Beauvoir’s classification, Eve is a mother with “masochistic devotion”(429) who renders herself a vassal of her child to compensate for her frustrations in life. Eve^ discontentment is caused not only from her sexual dissatisfaction for living like a nun for twelve yeas but also from her depression for social inferiority to men. In this sense, Eve, after several disappointing marriages, is tempted to treat Sylphid as her double or alter ego by projecting herself onto her child and finding self-realization in Sylphid. One significant example testifying to Eve’s morbid devotion is her intention of forging her daughter into a renowned harpist. With Eve’s own dream of fame projected onto her daughter’s life, the little Sylphid is thus subject to the domination of an object without her own independence. While Sylphid gives performances before audience like a live doll, Eve attempts to make up for her sense of inferiority by making a superior creature that she is unable to become. In Beauvoir^ words, Eve, by sacrificing all her individual life, gains the right to deny Sylphid all independence and thus assumes the role as a victim while Sylphid, reared with guilt feelings, cannot find a defensive position but to resort to violent behaviors like a criminal. In terms of this frightened-mother and overweening-daughter relationship, Murray poignantly points out that there is a “reversal of authority” within the household since Sylphid is uthe one wielding the whip^ (IMC 86). Obviously, in such a morbid relationship, the daughter in the end will have a poor success and thus Eves9 hope projected onto Sylphid will turn out to be vain. Fundamentally speaking, there is no reciprocity between them since Eve^ existence is left to be justified by her daughter. Laying a stake on Sylphid^ future, Eve is once again doomed to be a “mutilated person”(502) stuck in her immanence in Beauvoir’s words.
The third factor affecting Eve^ success of integrating herself into the mainstream can be attributed to her Jewishness that cannot be severed. One the one hand, as related in the novel, Eve^ family are Polish Jews in Brooklyn with her father either as a butcher or a poor house-painter. Just as Thomas Sowell analyzes, Polish Jews were in a worse condition than other immigrants in America, and they were even disdained by German Jews as uan inferior caste^ (81). From this perspective, born as a minority subjected to hostility in America, Eve and her family are marked people and attacked targets, rendering Eve destitute and poor from the start. Thus, Eve as a Jewish woman is confronted with more setbacks and deprived of any equal opportunity in the large society which does not accept Jews socially and economically. One the other hand, to realize her American dream of succeeding in the mainstream culture, Eve resorts to voluntarily getting rid of her Jewishness and reshaping a new self to assimilate into the WASPish society. Specifically, taking Pennington as the social model, Eve inherits from him the idea of pretending an aristocratic gentile. Nevertheless, Eve’s efforts to efface the racial identity will turn out to be futile since the repression of her alter ego epitomizes the denial of her own struggle for freedom, and the implicit rejection of her cultural identity as a true American she has been yearning for. The myth of “whiteness”,particularly the ideal of WASPish identity, cherished by Eve to obtain “success, propriety, and normalcy”,in essence “obscures the ethnic realities of all Americans” (Rankine 106), thus foreshadowing the fact that Eve5s dream is both elusive and self-deluding.
2.2Delphine’s Dilemma as an Excluded Female Intellectual
Whilst Delphine harbors a dream of achieving academic accomplishment in the American land independently, the success she attains eventually turns out to be precarious and short-lived. What accounts for her illusory dream can be attributed to the fact that after escaping the doomed destiny of being educated to promote femininity by her French family, Delphine is further stuck in the new dilemma of confronting the sexism from both male and other female intellectuals at Athena College.
As analyzed by Dorothy E. McBride, while the supposed function of education is to better individuals, it does not apply to women since the traditional purpose of educating females is to have them perform their “special roles” for the family and society. Although notions of gender differences in education were rejected, but remarkably little had changed by the twentieth century since the unot separate, but not equal”(140) education still existed by holding that for the major women, family roles were the end of education. And thafs what Delphine desires to escape under the expectation of her noble family. Under the shadow of her French aristocratic family, Delphine is brought up with such family ideals as ^charity, selflessness, discipline, faith, and respect^ (HS 234). The purpose of educating her, just as Delphine herself rejects, is not to motivate her individual potentials but to conform to the traditions of her family and inherit the qualities of her uangelic,? mother who embodies the above values. Thus, refusing to be educated for family roles with the same stifling values, Delphine comes to the new land with the ambition of being an independent individual. But unfortunately, apart form the unjust education for women, the sexism existing in the workplace also goes against Delphine^ dream and contributes to the downfall of her academic success.
For one thing, Delphine with her academic knowledge is devalued and neglected by male intellectuals at Athena College, which gives her a feeling of socially and intellectually diffidence and inferiority. In McBride^ words, reasons associated with “the cult of womanhood”(139) were the motivation that encouraged women to enter elementary and secondary schools, while higher education was almost exclusive to most women. Apart from the difficult access to the professions, male hegemony in the university was also prevalent. Therefore, it is difficult for Delphine, an immigrated female intellectual to compete against well-entrenched white male intellectuals in the mainstream culture with a matrix of laws and policies established to serve the latter^ interests. Compared with men, according to Gill Hopper^ analysis, women were not endowed with equal professional status, since their devotion to any work was regarded as the equivalence of the loss of femininity (121). That explains why Delphine is admitted into Athena College while her academic achievement remains unrecognized. The reason that Coleman hires Delphine upon the first sight, as Coleman admits, is either because of his intention of being open-minded or due to her attractive and irresistible appearance. Thus, her chance of being admitted into academy has nothing to do with her professional abilities since in the eyes of Coleman, she exemplifies the sort of "prestigious academic crap^ (HS 161) that is useless for Athena students. In this sense, the neglect of Delphine^ academic qualification and the emphasis upon her femininity during the first interview exactly reflect the dilemma of inequality that confronts female intellectuals. Apart from it, Delphine^ disadvantage in the occupational environment is made more explicit in her loss of discourse power when reasoning with Coleman about different teaching methods. Based on the traditionally entrenched and gendered idea that women have weaker powers of reasoning than men, women are usually thought to lack the capacity for rational decisions and independent judgment. Perceived from this perspective, believing that he retains a position of social and intellectual superiority, Coleman, with the advantage of reasoning techniques, gives no weight to Delphine^ opinions at all. To be more specific, Delphine’s sense of inferiority is reflected in Coleman’s entire rejection to engage in the debate with her. When Coleman finds the best way to settle her opinions is to display indifference to her judgment, Delphine^ reasoning technique is denied and thus she is forced to the silent position under what Beauvoir assumes to be men’s “sly kind of tranny”(449).
For another, what worsens Delphine^ occupational environment is the sexism from other academic women. As Phyllis Chesler observes, in male-dominated professions,women tend to express more “sexist or stereotyped views of gender” (348) by demoralizing other women’s success. Likewise, what conceals behind the cultural difference between her and other female academics is the latter9s internalized sexism in the covert and fierce competition at male-dominated Athena College. Unlike men, the competition among women is mainly toward each other in the indirect but more wounding forms. And sexualizing Delphine^ relationship with top men is the covert but destructive means adopted by three female professors to interpret Delphine^ success. This cable of three women express their animosity towards Delphine by claiming that she is pandering to male professors with her ulittle French aura”(Z/S 231). And noticeably, these three women’s internalized sexism exposes the very that in the male-dominated workplace, demoralizing other women becomes a common means of defending their own benefit and limited opportunities for promotion. In this sense, with women’s sexism as one more patriarchal script, Delphine is not only despised by male intellectuals but also demoralized by other female academics. Therefore,defined as “unclassifiable” (231) and irreconcilable at this American campus, Delphine is unable to integrate into the mainstream culture and only finds herself isolated, estranged and trapped in an uncontrollable drama.
2.3Merry’s Failure as a Politically Demonized Woman
Merry’s dream of seeking an idealized America in her militant persona eventually manifests itself as a shattered one, the impossibility of which is even recognized by Merry herself who finally transforms herself from a radical revolutionary to a Jain renouncing any action that may kill living creatures. The demise of Merry’s American dream can be attributed to two factors: For one thing,Merry’s identity crisis that arises from her family remains unresolved and is further complicated by her family’s ambiguous attitude. For another, Merry5s dream by ways of political violence is not only unrecognized but also demonized since it goes against the idealized pastoral dream of her family and threatens the established order of the patriarchal society.
Starting out from Freud’s psychoanalytic discovery, Erik Erikson defines the identity crisis as a psycho-social aspect of adolescing. In order to develop a vital personality, one shall pass various stages with identity in a correct form which will decide his/her later life. Otherwise, identity crisis occurs and it becomes even more conspicuous during the stage of adolescence. And the estrangement of this stage is what Erikson calls “identity confusion’’,which describes the predicament a young man will confront once the environment attempts to deprive him violently of all chances to develop into the next stage. By the same token, Merry, who resists the society with the wild strength to defend her own life, is also beset with identity confusion. Without a feeling of being alive in her loss of identity, Merry feels puzzled about her inability to assume a role imposed forcibly upon her by the "inexorable standardization of American adolescence”(Erikson 132).
Specifically, Merry’s hopelessness of longstanding delinquency is caused by the doubt of her social and ethnic identity. As mentioned before, her parents9 ideal prototype of the domestic angel will inevitably result in Merry’s bewilderment towards her social identity. Beset with stuttering problems and weight issues, Merry is incapable of assuming the supposed role of another “Miss New Jersey”,and thus radically rejects others to type her further by the social judgement. Meanwhile, born as the combination of Judaism and Gentilism, Merry suffers role confusion in a dilemma of these two cultures since her childhood. While Merry is caught between two different religious beliefs, Swede only serves as the intermediary and mediator to keep peace in the family instead of guiding her towards the definite cultural identity. Thus, the predicament that Merry is not granted with a certain social and cultural identity foreshadows her fate of being “condemned to the performance of the self’s loss, the self’s absence”(Parrish 143).
In this sense, Merry5s devotion to the cause of anti-Vietnam war movement can be interpreted as her efforts in pursuing the individual identity and her urgency in gaining the autonomy as a free adolescent. But for Swede, Merry^ existence is an indispensable component of his pastoral dream. And since the American dream is more in favor of Swede, the “all-American” man advocating the mainstream culture, Merry5s dream of challenging the social norms falls apart undoubtedly. Specifically, once realizing Merry’s dream runs counter to her family’s, her family demonize Merry5s participation in the political movement, distort her image into that of a monster-woman, and even obscure her real purpose of securing the sovereignty behind the political violence.
The first time Merry9s name is mentioned in American Pastoral is by Jerry who describes her as uthe monster daughter^ (AP 67). Without any single word to praise her, Jerry depicts his niece as a mad woman and believes she is the one to blame for the downfall of the family. In this way, Merry9s demonic image is established and unveiled before readers even without any introduction of her real life. Jerry’s monsterization of Merry9s image evokes what Caron E. Gentry assumes to be the "monster narrative^, in which violent women are characterized as inhuman monsters void of normal social interaction. In light of Gilbert and Gubar’s analysis of monster-woman, Gentry focuses upon violent women in global politics and concludes that women are excluded from most theories of peopled violence. As Gentry argues, due to the long inhabited idea that ideal women are supposed to nurture and protect,
Merry who participates the radical movement and does the killing is naturally categorized into the monster-woman.
However, just as Gentry suggests, Zuckerman/Swede^ monster narrative of Merry “masks the fear of the other sex”(93),especially the terror of Swede struggling to maintain his idyllic pastoral. According to his rationality, Swede harbors a dream of integrating himself into the mainstream by abiding by social norms and controlling “whatever else threatens to be uncontrollable”(d尸 89). But Merry’s revolutionary dream with her irrational bomb is what he cannot control and the transgression he cannot permit. Thus,Swede’s distortion of Merry’s dream by preventing her from the “irrational” journey ultimately reflects his terror that it will threaten his idyllic world and eventually flush himself uout of the longed-for American pastoral...into the indigenous American berserk”(86).
More importantly, as Gilbert and Gentry explicitly points out, while the violent woman exists as a threat in men’s eyes,the monster-woman is simply an individual who seeks the power of self-articulation from a female point of view. In Merry’s deviance from femininity as a “large, loping slovenly sixteen-year-old”(d尸 99), Merry launches her war against prescribed feminine norms, echoing the fact that inside every domestic angel inhabits an enraged self with autonomy and subjectivity hidden behind. But Swede/Zuckerman^ monster narrative in their male perspective objects to Merry’s decision of embarking on the life of “significant action”. The monster narrative, just as Gentry spotlights, is the ultimate discrimination against violent women by omitting their choice as well as their very humanity. In other words, the comparison of Merry to a monster obscures Merry’s justification as a political participant and denies her intention of seeking sovereignty. One important episode that refutes Merry’s existence as the monster-woman is her reflection after witnessing the self-immolation of Buddhist monks on TV at the age of 10 or 11 years old. This event embedded in her mind arouses Merry’s curiosity with her inquiry about peopled conscience and at the same time buries the seed of her doubt toward the American society. But as depicted in the novel, by shifting Merry5 s depiction from the one who defends the rights of Vietnamese to a dehumanized and cold-blooded monster, the monster narrative only emphasizes Merry9 s violence while demonizing Merry5 s cause of seeking the sovereignty and thus taking away Merry9 s very humanity by stripping her of what she pursues behind her radical American dream.
In conclusion, while the American dream holds out its vision of a fruitful country for those willing to work hard, it has never fully lived up to its promise for many, including the poor, minorities and women. The three female characters5 disillusioned dreams all emphasize the patriarchal restraints imposed upon women who desire to seek individual freedom and success. For Eve, with the destiny of being a responsible wife and mother, the patriarchy and traditions of confining her within the domestic sphere keep her away from the American dream. And her identity as a poor Jewish also adds to the difficulty of getting close to her dream since minorities are bound tightly by the hierarchy. As for Delphine, the supposed female intellectual who is foreign to the mainstream culture, is also mired in the dilemma of being discriminated by both male and female colleagues in the American college dominated by middle-class white male intellectuals. And Merry in identity confusion is misguided and monsterized by her family, while her true intention of seeking sovereignty and defending the underprivileged is denied and obscured. By challenging Swede’s bourgeois dream, Merry is launching a war against the traditional pattern of exclusion intrinsic to the American dream. Perceptibly, offending the authority of customs and laws, Merry is doomed to face the corresponding punishment of witnessing the collapse of her own dream.
Chapter Three Female-Consciousness in Pursuing the
American Dream
Despite the fact that the three female characters’ dreams are ultimately destabilized and crushed, their efforts devoted to their relentless quest for an ideal life cannot be denied. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that the three women, whose self-consciousness are awakened to different degrees, all share a conviction of trying to struggle for autonomy and being the master of their own destinies. In this sense, this chapter examines the progress of the three womens struggle against the erosion of male power from both material and spiritual aspects. With Beauvoir’s analysis of the high-class hetaira and narcissism, the first section exposes Eve’s dependence behind her economic success as well as her status as the Other in the spiritual sense. And this chapter also dissects how Dephine, as a card-carrying feminist with academic achievement, descends into spiritual infertility by “turning herself into an object”(23) under the male gaze in John Berger’s words. Unlike Eve’s entire surrender and Delphine’s passive rebellion, Merry’s active searching for her sovereignty in stuttering and eating disorders is also unveiled before readers with the help of Susan Bordo’s feminist analysis of the female body.
3.1 Eve’s Otherness as the Suppliant
Although Eve eventually ends up disreputable and dead lonely in drunkenness, her efforts in seeking economic independence as an individual cannot be neglected. As a famous silent-film actress, she does acquire certain independence in the material aspect. As examined above, Eve’s social ambition with piled-up money and accumulated fame suggests her awareness of being an individual instead of just a traditionally confined housewife, which slightly saves her from the status of the Other with man as the Subject. One reason accounting for woman’s predicament as the Other, according to Beauvoir, is her willingness to be the accomplice of man with the material support provided by the latter as the guarantee. But Eve’s accumulated wealth rescues her from being possessed by one man in the private sphere. Moreover,
Eve^ status as a renowned film star makes up for her feminine inferiority since, as Beauvoir claims, having a man willingly paid for her is to transform him into an instrument while Eve avoids being one. In the case of making Ira buy an expensive hat beyond his capacity, Eve, exploiting her femininity, creates for herself a situation almost equivalent to that of Ira by rendering Ira who is dazzled by her charm an objectified position.
Nevertheless, Eve’s career of a film star manifests itself as a negative liberty and indicates that Eve’s limited independence is what Beauvoir assumes to be “the deceptive obverse of a thousand dependencies^ (543). Beauvior in The Second Sex classifies the film star into the group of the high-class hetaira that refers to all women who exploit their bodies and entire personality as capital. And what is concealed behind the hetaira^ seemingly economic independence is her urgent need of men to support her material success. In this respect, Eve’s career as a renowned film star essentially allows her no chance to transcend herself in the job she is dedicated to. But rather, in her seeming success of captivating the world for her own benefit, Eve is unwittingly in a precarious position where she is Uunder the never ending necessity of seducing the public and the men anew”(543).
To seize men^ sustainable attention, Eve needs to play tricks to hold them. Murray pinpoints Eve’s wiles sharply,arguing that “every woman has her temptations, and surrendering is Eve^^ (JMC 51). More often than not, after Ira leaves home due to the conflict with his step-daughter, Eve will perform her melodramatic scenes to beg Ira not to leave her by throwing herself to the floor and crying sorrowfully. But Eve^ clinging to her dream of an actress through her wiles of suppliance eventually exposes her true nature as a hypocrite and narcissist. For one thing, Eve^ tricks based on her “chameleon-like nature”(Elaine 107) to please men testify to the very fact that her economic independence is illusory and that the dependence upon men through her hypocrisy is her lot since she is doomed to transform herself from the Subject to the Other to maintain her dream. For another, Eve is so indulged in the role she plays as the actress that there is almost no disparity between the one in career and that in daily life, which can be explained by her narcissist inclination.
In terms of narcissism, Beauvior makes implicit that in fame woman not only seeks economic benefits, but also sees “the apotheosis of her narcissism”(546). By the same token, Eve is also indulged in her narcissism in the role of a renowned film star who “had got caught in her own impersonation”(7MC 145). After Eve feels frustrated as the subject because of being unable to find human transcendence in a poor Jewish family, she projects herself onto the image of a famous film star to attain self-identification. Nevertheless, by identifying her ego with the image of a star, Eve unwittingly admits the fact that despite her efforts to find in the image her feeling of being the subject, she is actually relegated to the object just as the reflection. Meanwhile,Eve’s narcissism is shaped at the expense of disconnecting the reality since “a woman infatuated with her ego loses all hold on the actual world”(Beauvior 605). In Murray’s statement that “actuality wasn’t something that mattered to Eve” {IMC 253), he confirms that Eve is a woman who never shows any concerns about the real life, regardless of what people are discussing about. Instead, what Eve concentrates on is to weave an idealized image of her own, with Sylphid as the inheritor of her dream. Therefore, Eve is gradually destroyed in her identification with the imaginary double as her behaviour becomes fixed and emotions stereotyped. Despite her attempts to be a perfect mom who expresses unconditional love to Sylphid, Eve winds up in the tragicomic monologues of iterating UI love you,5 {IMC 105) time and again to convince herself of the heartfelt emotions she has expressed. Ultimately, once the imaginary double incarnated in her image of a film star is imperilled by the exposure of her lies of the origin, Eve^ value as the individual vanishes once for all and abandons herself to alcohol until death.
In Eve^ degeneration from attempting to attain the autonomy to being confined within the objectified image, Sylphid, as the monster daughter, actually functions to try to rescue her from being exploited. Furious about Eve^ cowardice of being obedient to Ira’s requirement, Sylphid on her own decides to control Eve by sitting astride her with screams and cries on the bed. In her extreme way of awakening her mother’s female-consciousness, Sylphid punishes Eve for confining both of them inside the cage of submission. However, Sylphid, opposed to yielding to the patriarchal culture so radically in the past, ends up getting married and giving birth to a son just as Eve did. In her marriage to Pennington^ chauffeur whose intention has been doubted to hunt for her fortune, Sylphid, who has been deemed as Eve’s oppressed female consciousness, chooses a path which eventually turns out to be similar to Eve’s. To put it short, Sylphid’s marriage not only proves her own voluntary renunciation of the self her rebellious actions have always been seeking, but also attests to Eve^ irretrievable destiny of surrendering herself to the formidable enemy of the patriarchal power.
3.2Delphine’s Passive Resistance under the Male Gaze
While Eve^ career, void of human transcendence, predetermines her economic and spiritual dependence, Delphine^ academic accomplishment, based on her French elite schooling and her academic credentials, helps her gain economic independence. As discussed above, what drives Delphine to create a story of her own in America is her consciousness of getting rid of the family bondage and remaking herself to succeed in the new environment. Noticeably, Delphine^ solid academic achievement is acquired through her own efforts. Finding that American undergraduates lack the awareness of equipping themselves of literature knowledge in Yale University, Delphine concentrates on her own dissertation to get the degree in a rapid way with her solid education background. And as a member of French intellectual elites, Delphine climbs the ladder to eventually become the department chair at Athena College in the academic environment dominated by white men. Meanwhile, depicted as a card-carrying feminist, Delphine is clearly aware of defending women’s rights against men’s dominance by adopting feminist perspectives to interpret literary works and exposing Coleman^ racism and misogyny to protect females whom she believes are being exploited.
Nevertheless, just as her accusation proves wrong, Delphine^ sense of female independence in the spiritual sense is also pretentious and faked. As a matter of fact, Delphine has always been living under the male gaze and adjusting her behaviour to pander to the desire of male rulers albeit her denial of it. In Beauvoir^ analysis, woman’s position of inferiority is either because of being imposed upon the current status dominated by male authorities or due to her unconscious willingness to keep yielding to men. In Delphine5s case, her misfortune lies not only in the power of male gaze but also in her ostensible independence yet unconsciousness of catering to the male gaze.
Intriguingly, in her first interview with Coleman, Delphine tries her best to impress Coleman both as a scholarly intellectual and as a woman enjoying the aesthetic level of life. On the one hand, with her lengthy resume and ua supplementary autobiography essay of fifties pages99 (HS 158), Delphine displays her confidence in the academic achievement to be admitted into Athena College. On the other hand, with carefully selected dressing and adornment, Delphine attempts to appeal to him with her female attractiveness. As a result, Coleman employs her for the purpose of being open-minded and being impressed by her beauty. However, Dephine Roux, during the interview, has misread his gaze by believing all that he wants is to have her around by tying her hands behind her back. The gap between Delphine?s exaggerated interpretation and the true intention of Coleman^ gaze illustrates that not only Delphine is experienced and scrutinized under the male gaze, she also unconsciously adjusts her behaviour to make herself an object with Coleman as the surveyor.
Laura Mulvey in Visual and Other Pleasures claims that in the ways of seeing caused by sexual imbalance, woman is usually regarded as the image, while man as the bearer of the look. When the spectator projects his fantasy onto woman, the person being displayed is relegated to a sexual object subjected to a determining and curious male gaze. In this sense, Delphine, in the process of being interviewed, is undoubtedly degenerated into a sexual object that uholds the look and plays to and signifies male desire59 (19). Impressed by her youth and beauty, Coleman in his gaze actively dissects Delphine into the object of an erotic spectacle and enjoys his pleasure in looking another person onto which he projects his repressed desire. In other words, Delphine under the male gaze is restricted by the compulsions of a situation dominated by Coleman who asserts that she is inessential and inferior.
Even worse, what Delphine has done to prepare for and her psychological activities during the interview compromise her sense of individual independence despite her pretense of controlling not to show her explicit renunciation of autonomy.
When she is seated before Coleman,
ushe had crosses her legs and the flap of the kilt has fallen often, she had waited a minute or two before pulling it closed...she wasn^ a schoolgirl with a schoolgirPs fears ... She did not wish to have that impression any more than to give the opposite impression by allowing the flap remain open and thereby inviting him to imagine that she meant him to gaze throughout the interview at her slim thighs in the black tights.^ (HS 157)
The way Delphine tries to leave a certain kind of impression by consciously pulling the flap open or not indicates that Delphine is very concerned about her presence before Coleman. John Berger5s definition well explains the motivation of Delphine^ behavior, since her actions described above are actually uan indication of how she would like to be treated”(46). Based on Mulvey’s claim that there is also pleasure in being looked at, Berger further puts forward that the self of the female figure is split into two halves: the surveyor and the surveyed, both of which constitute her identity as a woman. Since, the surveyor of woman in herself is male and the surveyed female, she constantly modifies her presence to decide how she will be treated by men, which is normally regarded as the success of her life. Likewise, in such aspects as gestures, clothes, and adornment which will contribute to her presence, Delphine has deployed all her powers to show her best side by wearing fashionable clothes along with the meticulously selected decorative ornament of a large ring. Thus, in surveying how she will appear to Coleman, Delphine voluntarily turns herself into a surveyed object while locating Coleman in the position of the surveyor. Meanwhile, it is also noteworthy that Delphine,as the “emancipated woman”,emphasizes the point that she endeavors to differentiate herself from other university women by refusing to Udesexualize herself by what she chose to wear,? (HS 156). Her deliberate choice in an audacity of dress, however, only serves to echo uher nature as sexual object, therefore her dependence”(Beauvior 509).
What complicates Delphine^ spiritual dilemma under the male gaze is her conscious denial but unconscious acceptance of male domination. However hard Delphine tries to repress her sexual desires and insists upon her spiritual independence, the futile result manifests itself in her paradoxical attitude towards men — uAfraid of being exposed, dying to be seen^ (HS 156). Irritated by the confusion about her own inner desires, Delphine mistakenly dispatches to her department an ad posting the requirement of her ideal man which matches the very image of Coleman. The classic Freudian mistake that Delphine hits the “send” instead of “delete” key in her frenetic state exactly reflects that Delphine is dying to be exposed along with her long-term repressed sexual desires.
To summarize, although equipped with enough knowledge to attain academic success, Delphine Roux as a self-exalted feminist is mired in her spiritual loneliness. Delphine’s unconscious catering to the male gaze, along with her “Faustian bargain” (232) by repressing her sexual self for intellectual success, predetermines her limited sense of self-awakening as an independent individual.
3.3Merry’s Self-consciousness in Quest as the Jain
It is perceptible that Merry’s pursuit of personal sovereignty to cast off the chains of the patriarchal domination is more thorough and violent just as her radical insurgence indicates. Apart from the economic independence she has attained as a revolutionary against the bourgeois complacency, Merry also refuses to yield to the paternal authority by converting to Jainism instead of returning to the mainstream life.
Driven by the consciousness of the capital crimes in her father’s ideal dream, Merry’s fiercely rejects the pastoral dream to embrace the anti-capitalistic politics. In opposing Swede’s complacent bourgeois life, Merry leaves the stone house established upon the “caprice of an urban capitalist”(Elaine 94). With the literal and metaphorical force of the bomb, Merry exposes the corrosive evil embedded in the bourgeois dream and actively seeks economic independence in the “morally spineless”(Menand 93) society. And after running away from the colonial stone house, the incarnation of the middle-class guilt, Merry chooses to reside in a ragged and stinking room where she has long before cast aside her material desires. Noticeably, it is in this ragged room that Merry officially announces her indifference to material gains and continues her war against the patriarchal culture that oppresses her cause of
seeking the sovereignty.
Merry’s radical vision of transgressing the norms of the patriarchal society is basically reified in two aspects: Merry5s stutter and her eating disorders. For one thing, Merry’s stutter from her childhood indicates her unconscious rejection of the regularized speech patterns of patriarchal society. Just as Stanley analyzes, Merry “punctures the boundaries of the normative public sphere” by transgressing the community’s norms related to the speech pattern (Stanley 13). After years of efforts devoted to solving her problem of stuttering, Merry eventually realizes the ridiculous significance in overestimating the importance of how she says it rather than what she says just to meet the expectations of people in Old Rimrock. For another, Merry’s stuttering can best testify to her inner desires suppressed when being the domestic angel at home. Gilbert and Gubar in their work note that passive angels are often surrounded by diseases such as anorexia, claustrophobia and aphasia. uFeminine diseases” are not only the byproducts of being trained to be feminine but also the goal of being trained by patriarchal culture (54). Merry’s stutter, which can be interpreted as the alienated symptoms of aphasia, exhibits the male power of training her to be a passive and angelic daughter, since it occurs and worsens only when the real self is restrained to satisfy her successful parents. Thus, it is not hard to find that Merry’s stutter will be much alleviated under the condition that she is able to gain her autonomy without conforming to norms and expectation from the outside world. When she undertakes the cause of being against the war by talking on the phone all the time, Merry is no longer bothered with the ancient obstruction of stuttering, since she experiences both the freedom for the first time and the power of being entirely self-certain. And without the stutter when studying Spanish to head for Cuba or when Swede finds her at the rugged house, Merry is eventually the master of her own inner desires which will not be interfered by anyone’s arrival.
Apart from transgressing the normative society through stuttering, Merry also rejects the body politics to secure autonomy from the expectations of her family and from those of society. Dissecting the female body from a feminist perspective, Susan Bordo highlights that women’s eating disorders are closely connected to the normalizing ideology concerning femininity. And obesity, as one of eating disorders, needs to be corrected immediately since it transgresses the boundary imposed upon women and violates the demands of normalization. Raised under the expectation of a former Miss New Jersey, Merry, who is supposed to be a little lady with elegance, has always been dominated by the gendered ideology that prevents her true self from being realized. But with the sense of self-awakening, Merry makes a decision of eating nothing at home but gorging herself upon large quantities of unhealthy food outside home. As a result, Merry becomes an appallingly overweight sixteen-year-old overnight and everything that her “Miss New Jersey” mother is against. In this respect, by packing on the pounds purposely, Merry launches her bold defiance against the Western female bodily narratives, succeeds in her unquenchable outburst of female hunger, desires, and power, and arouses the terror from the patriarchal society.
Even after Merry^ broken dream, she still refuses to be controlled within the body politics by being horribly emaciated. In Bordo’s explanation of anorexia, she pinpoints that it is a parody of the ideal of slenderness and a feminist protest of the dominant culture that suppresses female hunger and runs the tranny of slenderness. After Swede finds her daughter five years later, what he sees is a skeleton in a scarecrow’s clothes. Once again, Merry’s skeletal frame defies the gendered notions of an idealized female body by expressing her pursuit of “masculine” autonomy in the absolute control of her body. Thus, Merry, epitomizing the “alterity” the system finds unbearable, makes her own efforts to seize her personal sovereignty by protesting against the patriarchal society which tries to confine women within the norms. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the power Merry achieves by anorexics is ultimately illusory since harnessing herself to an obsessive body practice, as Bordo suggests, only makes her the victim of dominant cultural norms that confine her possibilities once again.
Meanwhile, it should be noticed that Merry5s effort in breaking the chains of patriarchal culture is still far from her success of attaining a certain identity as a self-conscious woman in the real sense. Although she launches a self-experimentation of exploring “outer limits of the self’s possibilities”,she ends up given no “acceptable form through which to create her self9 (Parrish 139). Instead, Merry becomes what Bylund calls “the Wandering Jew” since she claims no real home or country as an “itinerant wanderer” and has to suffer for the sin of disrespecting the authority (24). Therefore, it is a long way for her to wander in the world before Merry seeks the identity of her own as an independent and self-certain woman conscious of her future.
To conclude, this chapter spotlights the progress of the three female characters whose female self-consciousness has been awakened to different degrees during their pursuit of the American dream, which unfortunately and undoubtedly proves disillusioned. Although Eve’s ambition of being a successful film star seems to help her win economic freedom, her desire of securing autonomy proves delusional since her achievement of material success as a film star is still dependent upon men just as the high-class hetaira and her narcissistic indulgence in the illusory double predetermines her spiritual sterility. And Delphine, with the dream of succeeding as an American intellectual, wins much more independence compared with Eve, but she also winds up spiritually alienated with the precariously academic accomplishment. Although having denied her sexual desires for the academic success, she has always been living under the male gaze. Therefore, Delphine^ accusation of Coleman is in essence a passive rebellion against the patriarchal culture: her claim of refusing to succumb to male intellectuals by concealing her sexual desires only turns out to be her unconscious desires of adjusting her behaviors to satisfy men^ appetite. Unlike Eve and Delphine, Merry has the courage of not conforming to the norms and regulations of patriarchal society in the material and spiritual sense. Defying the body politics and speech patterns of the normative society, Merry exhibits an uncompromising volition to explore her self. Although her radical American dream fails to endow her with a definite identity, she resorts to Jainism, which offers no chance to reconcile herself with the paternal state. However, although Merry disentangles herself from the bonds of patriarchal authorities, her end as the “Wandering Jew” still indicates that there is a long way to go before Merry and other women share in the promise of the American dream and find a sense of self-certainty both as an individual and as a woman.
Conclusion
As a prominent satiric novelist, Roth writes novels delineating and expressing concerns about the living condition of human beings. Defending his self-asserted position as “a writer who is a Jew”(Ozick 158),Roth endeavors to tackle the theme of the American dream that is applicable to all Americans. His “American Trilogy” can be read as the novels depicting the postwar era during which female characters experience the pursuit and disillusionment of the American dream as well as depicting the quest for female consciousness presented from within. Often being accused as a misogynist, Roth attempts to have this unjustified charge cleared through his depiction of womens dilemma in modern society. Therefore, this thesis, drawing on feminist theories, zeroes in on the recurrent theme of the American dream in the “American Trilogy” so as to facilitate the appreciation of these three novels.
Although the American dream holds out its promise to every individual willing to work hard, those individuals who are qualified to pursue and achieve the American dream are exclusively middle-class, white males. Calvin C. Jillson in The American Dream in History, Politics and Fiction, makes it explicit that from the aspects of the class, race and gender, the American dream has been denied to the poor, people of color and women for most of the nation^ history (4). However, unlike the bleak prospects of the poor and people of color, women’s marginalized position, which exists alongside the domination of the patriarchal society, is more imperceptible and entrenched. While women are praised for their American greatness in domestic service, they are actually barred from sharing the promise made by the American dream that they can rise unfettered. Moreover, critics analyzing the “American Trilogy” mainly focus on the male protagonists’ broken American dreams,but the female characters9 dreams in the three novels are rarely given any attention to. It should be emphasized that, although the female characters are always depicted as destroying the male protagonists, dreams, they themselves also articulate their own versions of the American dream.
Thus, this thesis probes in the different versions of the American dream cherished by the three female characters in the “American Trilogy”. The dream Eve harbors is to escape poverty and rise to the pinnacle of wealth and social status as a renowned film star. Apart from challenging the rags-to-riches narratives that exclude female dreamers,Eve’s dream also indicates her consciousness of mastering her own fate. Winning her independence from a Jewish family that cannot integrate into the mainstream, Eve makes efforts towards upward mobility in the white-dominated society. Meanwhile, by continuing her career in the public sphere as a film star regardless of others5 prejudices which criticize her ambition as egoism, Eve transgresses the boundary that confines American women to the domestic sphere. In this sense, Eve refutes the gendered labor division and, with her successful career and ownership of a beautiful house and the pursuit of a more satisfactory family life, she does struggle to share in the promise made by the American dream. Meanwhile, Delphine^ dream is to embrace her academic success in America while rejecting her inherited role within her aristocratic French family. Endeavoring to escape from the tyranny of the “we”,Delphine attempts to claim a unique “I” and to be the author of her own life in a new environment. Delphine adopts passing as the method for achieving her dream since, in her opinion, only by casting off her family and repressing her sexual desires can she complete the act of self-construction and succeed in the male-dominated academy. As for Merry9s violent dream, it refers to her radical inclination to dismantle American hegemonic culture and her passionate yearning for an ideal country of equality and justice to protect the liberalism of those oppressed and exploited by the Vietnam War. In addition, the process of pursuing her dream also exposes how Merry awakens, tearing up her angelic mask in order to regain the power of self-articulation. Although the contents of their dreams vary, the three female characters all refuse to yield to their doomed fates and struggle to attain personal sovereignty despite the restraints forced upon them by society’s gendered ideology.
Moreover,how women’s seductive dreams evolve into shattered ones and the exterior reasons accounting for it can be further investigated. The predicament Eve confronts on the path to realizing her dream is entailed by her dilemma as a Jewish woman, with challenges to her sexual and ethnic identity. The role Eve plays as a wife, instead of empowering her to sustain her dream, clashes with her individual desires, thus forcibly reducing her to a secondary position that serves her husbands. As a masochistic mother, Eve5s futile effort to project her hope onto Sylphid indicates the lack of reciprocity between them and once again denies Eve the chance to transcend the immanence by leaving others to justify her own existence. And Eve^ inseparable Jewishness adds to the difficulty of achieving her dream since her Jewish identity deprives her of any chance to compete in the prejudiced society. In addition, Eve’s Jewish-hatred, fueled by the aim of assimilating into the mainstream society, exerts an adverse effect because her hatred of that ethnic identity is ultimately equivalent to the denial of her own efforts. Furthermore, Delphine^ short-lived American dream serves as an empty promise and dystopia offered by America, which is no longer the land of opportunity and hope. On the one hand, after escaping the stereotyped expectations forcing her to conform to her French family’s ideals,Delphine confronts the new dilemma of being discriminated against at Athena College. With her academic knowledge undervalued and reasoning skills entirely ignored, Delphine is mired in feelings of social and intellectual inferiority in the American, male-dominated workplace. More importantly, sexism also comes from other female colleagues who, with their deep-rooted and internalized sexist views, intend to defend their own positions by covertly demoralizing Delphine’s achievements. Merry’s choice of an anti-Vietnam war stance as her American dream is, in essence, her identity confusion in adolescence caused and complicated by her paternal family. Due to her inability to assume the role her family has imposed upon her, Merry chooses to join the anti-war movement to seek her sense of identity. Therefore, the very fact that Merry^ American dream is built upon her identity confusion foreshadows its collapse. Moreover, her violent dream, rather than being acknowledged, is demonized once it threatens the family’s pastoral dream and the order of the patriarchal society. With the help of the monster narrative that distorts Merry9s true intention, paternal authorities thus become justified in denying her choice and suppressing her radical dream. In short, the great discrepancy between the individual’s desire for self-invention and the deterministic forces of patriarchal culture tears apart the three female characters who try to straddle it.
Furthermore, this thesis also makes it explicit that during the quest for their American dream, each woman’s self-consciousness is awakened to a different degree. Although Eve’s orientation as a successful film star differentiates her from housewives, her autonomy is ultimately sacrificed in the course of seeking material success, leading to her submission to the male authority as the “Other”. In the economic aspect, her image as a renowned actress, which is equivalent to that of a high-class hetaira, turns out to be illusory since it is built upon material support from men. In the spiritual aspect, Eve9 surrender and capitulation to male rulers and her addiction to the illusory double render her a suppliant image. Eve^ daughter, Sylphid, as the monster who signifies her oppressed female-consciousness and tries to rescue Eve from the suppliant manner, tragically follows the same path as Eve, epitomizing the irretrievable trend of Eve’s obedience to the patriarchal culture. Delphine,with her dream of integration in the new land, does achieve success academically but ends up spiritually alienated. On the path of pursuing her academic achievement, she has always lived under the male gaze. As the object to be consumed, Delphine, uafraid of being exposed, dying to be seen^ (HS 85), consciously rejects but unconsciously embraces that male domination. Therefore, Delphine^ accusation against Coleman is essentially a passive rebellion against the patriarchal culture: her attempts to avoid succumbing to male intellectuals by concealing her sexual desires only turn out to be the exposure of her inner desires to pander to the appetite of males. Unlike Eve and Delphine, Merry is no longer chained to the norms and discipline of patriarchal society. Although her radical American dream fails to endow her with an identity, she resorts to Jainism to "explore the furthest boundaries of the self9 (Parrish 138). Defying the traditional ideals of a female body and regaining the power of speech without stuttering, Merry refuses to be compromised by her disillusioned dream and firmly rejects reconciling herself to the paternal state. However, although Merry ties to disentangle herself from the bonds of patriarchal authorities, her fate as a “Wandering Jew” still indicates her groundless self that is in search of a home.
To sum up, as a great humanistic writer, Roth proves himself able to pay close attention to the common dilemma of human beings, especially uthe problematical nature of moral authority and of social restraint and regulation”(Lyons 84). Through the depiction of the women’s pursuit of their own American dreams,Roth expresses concern for those women trapped in the plight and dilemma of searching for their identities and autonomy. Although Roth does not provide a clear way out for female dreamers in novels, it is obvious that he is strongly in favor of those suppressed women fighting for their own freedom, independence and equality.
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