Gender critics explore men and women; these critics analyze the idea behind their masculinity or femininity. Gender criticism is socially based on specific cultures. Some critics believe that sex is based on the biological structure of men and women, while gender and gender-specific behavior depend on the culture they represent or live in or the social context they are most familiar with. Thus gender, as considered from different perspectives, is a different phenomenon and may have different interpretations depending on cultural leaning or framework.
In case of interpreting literature, any work will be interpreted differently by the people of that time and gender critics like feminists or gays and lesbians. In the case of Kate Chopin’s work “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard is considered to be an overly sensitive woman and Mr. Mallard as a balanced man. In the 1890’s the cultural environment and social structure were constructed in a way where women were idealized as being demurred and accepting everything. Men, on the other hand, were considered to be at their best when in control and detached from their families.
This view of Chopin’s work will be criticized by Feminist critics who would regard it as a male-dominated interpretation of the work; their idea would be to make appropriate changes to the perception. The feminist agenda as the article states is to create political awareness about the patriarchal influences in the society and their prevalence in criticism. Feminists analyze all types of literature trying to understand the representation of women in the literature. Feminist literature considers different disciplines like history, sociology, and psychology. When for example if feminist considers Chopin’s work they would explore the stress created by marriage on Mrs. Mallard, and the expectations that a woman has to fulfill. In addition, they would question the Marriage itself even keeping in mind that her husband is kind and loving. If for example, Chopin saw marriage as an institution that leads to the imposition of will by both men and women on each other feminists consider it as the imposition of men’s will on women. Feminists also observe that the woman Mrs. Mallard has no identity of her own but is known by her husband’s name. The male doctor views even her emotions and causes of death in masculine terms; she died because she had a weak heart not because she went through intense emotional struggles.
Gay and lesbian criticism interpret different works of literature from their own unique socio-cultural perspective. How the different authors represent homosexuals, and whether sexuality and gender are instinctive or created by societal and cultural forces. These gay critics have reinterpreted the works of Henry James and Herman Melville, while lesbian critics have tried the same thing with Toni Morrison and Emily Dickinson. With regards to Chopin’s work, they may question the relief shown by Mr. Mallard when she believes her husband is dead. This to the lesbian critics shows rejection of her heterosexuality.
However, in spite of these new reinterpretations of different works from different cultural perspectives like feminist criticism, gay and lesbian criticism, these have given rise to noteworthy controversies. And due to these views and opinions apparently familiar texts may be transformed into something never experienced by readers. What this shows is that social and cultural perspectives have a very significant impact on the how one sees gender as presented by any author.
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