Female liberation

The theme of female liberation can be clearly identified and analysed in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Both texts adopt a markedly feminist bias, narrated from the point of view of a female protagonist who struggles against the restrictive conventions of a misogynistic society, before finally breaking free through separation from the thinking world. Gilman does this in The Yellow Wallpaper through insanity and Chopin does the same via suicide in The Awakening. It seems that both protagonists in the novels must resort to extreme measures to achieve female liberation and empowerment.

A comparison between these two texts can reveal a similarity in the oppressiveness by the predominant male figures. When the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper begins to write about her obsession with the wallpaper and Edna moves out of her husband’s home, it represents moments of independence in these women’s stories. This independence, though supposedly temporary, are the first tastes of freedom that the women enjoy, fueling their craving for complete liberation. By casting such stereo-typically male figures as husbands of the protagonists, both Chopin and Gilman attack marriage as an institution that restricts women. In the context of both texts, society functions with the understanding that the wide is always subservient to the demands of the husband. To the husbands, their wives are fragile beings who must be coddled, people who hold little worth of their own.

The women are flawed through their mental instability, thus making the stories skewed through the eyes of an unreliable narrator. However, both women would rather forsake sanity and life than endure the hardships of oppression. This could be because separation from the conscious  world is the only way to achieve complete liberation in an oppressive, male-focused society.

It’s fair to argue that the choices made by an emotionally or mentally unstable character does not represent the entire female demographic. However, Edna and the narrator are ordinary women who inherit their flaws because of their environment; the lust and insanity are products of their mistreatment.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I’m sure I won’t be the only devoted Harry Potter fan that wasn’t as least a little bit skeptical about this book, worried if it could live up to the masterpieces that I consider the original seven books to be. Unlike other people, I was not put off by this new story being in script form rather than prose, as I often don’t pick up plays to read for pleasure despite me favoring that style of writing. All in all, I loved it!

This book was everything I could hope for and more, making me question whether I can still say that The Goblet of Fire is still my favourite Harry Potter book. The way Rowling and the other writers integrated the old and new generation was perfectly balanced, letting a beloved Harry Potter fan like myself indulge in the nostalgia in reading about my favourite characters together once again.

However, it was definitely the new generation that won my heart. Albus Severus Potter is probably one of the most intricate and developed child characters I have read in a long time, and in some circumstances I preferred his character arc to Harry’s in the originals! It was interesting to read about his thoughts and feelings on being the son of the man who saved the world, as instead of soaking up the glory, we see Albus’ struggles and perhaps jealousy.

Despite Albus’ intriguing story arc, my favourite character in the play has to be Scorpius Malfoy. Without spoiling too much, I will say that I was surprised by how the character was written and how, as a reader, I was able to closely compare Scorpius and Draco’s relationship to Albus and Harry’s.

Overall, I found the plot very unique, Rowling and the other writers being able to explore aspects of the Wizarding World that were old vaguely touched upon in the original seven books. I would definitely give this book a 5/5 stars!

The Da Vinci Code

Just before I broke up for summer holidays, I stopped by my school library to pick up Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a book that has been recommended to me numerous times. I have finally picked it and and am now about 50 pages in.

With most books that I pick up, I immediately look up a synopsis to get a feel for what kind of book I’m about to read, but I thought I’d try something different. I went into this book completely ‘blind’. So far, I am very much enjoying it and have already decided that I will not be putting this book down any time soon.

The story is about a university lecturer named Robert Langton as he uses his expertise in religious symbolism to help solve a murder mystery. I am really enjoying the story so far, even though I have just started. In the past, I have never really thought to pick up a crime novel so I am looking forward to reading more of and finishing the book to see what I make of it.

Even if I end up not enjoying The Da Vinci Code as much as I suspected, I can say that I will still consider picking up another Dan Brown novel. His writing style just makes his books so easy to read and get into, using the exact right amount of sophisticated vocabulary without having to have a dictionary at my side every time I sit down to read. The description style he uses is so vivid and creative, using metaphors and similes I have never seen in other novels, which is something I find really refreshing.

Context in The Yellow Wallpaper

The author of this short masterpiece of literature, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a proud advocate of feminism, as well as having personal experiences with mental illness; these both are noticeably reflected in The Yellow Wallpaper.

After Gilman gave birth to her first and only daughter, Katharine Beecher Stetson, she suffered from post-partum depression. From this, her doctor prescribed her an unsuccessful cure to her illness that involved devoting the majority of her time to domestic duties, rather than intellectual activities instead. She wrote predominantly political books, focusing on the unhealthy dynamic of the traditional American household. In these novels, she would advocate that everyone (meaning both woman and men) were unhappy and unproductive by this system that existed. When she separated from her husband, Gilman started to become an active voice in the feminist community, closely analysing the role of the woman in a domestic household. Later in her life, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she committed suicide by overdose, claiming that it was a preferable way to die than cancer.

The setting of the novel is in the late nineteenth century, in a colonial mansion that the narrator’s husband, John, has rented for the summer. The majority of the story’s action is situated in a room at the top of the house, known as the nursery. The naming of this room could be effective as it suggests that the mind of the woman kept their is undeveloped in some way. We could link this accusation to the way John treats the woman, frequently laughing at her, making her seem inadequate to him: a male.

As well as The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman wrote utopian fiction where she often imagined a world where there was equality for woman embedded in the social conditions. She argued for women’s need to fufill their power of creativity and intelligence, as the current domestic atmosphere robbed them of this freedom and individuality. In her works, Gilman often analysed the hidden value of a woman’s labour and from this, argued for the finanical independence of women. She believed  this would benefit society as a whole.

Struggling with an internal life

In The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper, it is clear that both protagonists struggle with attempting to live an internal life or fantasy.

The woman in yellow wallpaper struggles with her internal life as she becomes haunted by the yellow wallpaper that she is forced to live with everyday locked in her room, the pattern making her descend into madness as she sees a woman climbing out of the wallpaper. This woman from the wallpaper could represent the narrator’s desire to escape her confined life in the room and how she wants to escape the grasp the yellow wallpaper has on her. Similar to Edna in The Awakening, it seems the woman’s husband does not take her condition seriously, forcing her to fight her mental instability alone. This leads to her complete descent into insanity, where she finally finds her own freedom.

Edna in the awakening struggles with her internal life as she begins to question why she conforms to particular rules in order to appease her husband and the people around her. She starts to divide her life, keeping her curiosity hidden and separated from her outward life that conforms to convention. However, this ultimately leads to her downfall as she drifts further and further away from her outward life, deeply and dangerously investing herself more into her inward life. Despite readers looking at Edna as a strong female character who realises her confinement and attempts to break free, she is still weak and unable to create a new and better outward life for herself that matches what she feels inside. From this, she perhaps realises that the only way she can escape this tear in her consciousness is to end it all together upon realising she cannot live just in her inward life alone.

These two characters are completely alone in their internal struggles, unable to express their true feelings with anyone: the narrator from yellow wallpaper because perhaps she believes her insanity is to do with her illness that John claims she has and Edna because it would mean a clash between her conventional outward life and questioning and rebellious inward life.

Convention and individuality in The Awakening

The novel takes place where there are particular rules where Edna assumes she must live by, like all the people who surround her. Edna seems to have a interesting quality when she learns to separate her curious and disobedient internal life from the anonymous external life. However, during her marriage, her internal life darkens under the weight of convention and how she should act, and Edna enters a sort of long sleep state.

Mademoiselle Reisz’s music, Robert’s love and her curious fascination with the sea awake her. From this, thought, emotion and will come back to her all at once and she begins to examine her roles as a wife, mother and friend, finding them bizarre and deceitful. Soon after this, she begins to behave according to her peculiar beliefs and impulses. Edna abandons her entire worldwide view for what? When her initial, destructive thrill weakens and fades, finding herself in an emotional wilderness and confusion with who she really is. She begins to gather more independence and strength, until she is able to criticise this false code she has been living by, but is, however, not strong enough to invent a true code. Without this, she ends up being lost, and must therefore live at the mercy of her emotions, which are violent with contradiction.

One particularly powerful quote that demonstrates this theme perfectly is “at a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.” This shows Edna’s internal battle with who she is and which life she should pursue.

Through Edna’s individuality and inward behaviour struggle against convention, we realise by the end of the novel that she is unable to live by her inward life alone. We could say that this justifies her reason for drowning herself at the end of the novel, despite it being intentional or not.

The Rain Horse

When I started to regularly write my own short stories, I thought it would only be logical to start reading short stories. I selected The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes out of a selection of modern short stories that my English teacher lent me. Despite it being an enjoyable read, I felt inspired to improve my own writing and make it more sophisticated.

The Rain Horse tells a tale of a man who is trapped in a field with a horse on a very rainy evening, hence the title. The story consists of the man’s attempts to cross the field without the horse realising – and therefore attacking – him. When he realises that this is no good, he starts attacking the horse by throwing stones at it until, mysteriously, the horse disappears.

What made me choose this particular story out of the collection I read was Hughes’ incredible use of imagery. For such a story seemingly as simple as the interactions of a man and a horse, the way Hughes uses metaphors and enticing imagery succeeded in drawing me into the story. Despite whether this was the author’s objective, this story definitely left me thinking. The manner in which the horse disappeared left me wondering whether the horse was ever real in the first place. Was it just an illusion? A image created by the man to act as an embodiment of his fear? I feel like the mystery behind this story will persuade me to read it again in the future, trying another hand at unpicking the language to find the true meaning of the story.

From reading The Rain Horse, I feel drawn to reading more of Ted Hughes’ work, being especially interested in his poetry and how his style in short stories differs from how he writes poems. Overall, I gave this story a 4.5/5 stars.


Whilst reading more sophisticated novels for my English Literature studies, I like to read young adult novels across a range of genres in order to end up reading as many books as possible! My goodreads reading challenge for this year is 20 books and already, I have managed to read 14!

I read Gone by Michael Grant about a month ago now, but I can definitely say this novel still stood out for me in a few ways. It is apparent that, at the moment, young adult dystopian is a very popular genre, and therefore very competitive. Unfortunately, since The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was realised, most novels in the same genre are closely analysed with this particular novel. This inevitability leads to many readers complaining that other novels in the young adult dystopian genre are too similar to The Hunger Games. Grant’s Gone does not seem to be excluded from this scrutiny.

Personally, I viewed Gone to be a very different novel from The Hunger Games, especially since I found their only similarity being that the main cast of characters are teenagers or young adults, but that is a trope in most young adult fiction.

Gone introduces a concept of having a town where everyone over the age of fifteen disappears on one day and never comes back. The story follows a male protagonist, Sam Temple, and his realisation as to how these disappearances has affected himself and his friends. Throughout the novel, Sam is faced with intimidating newcomers, survival dilemmas and the testing of friendships.

I found it refreshing to read a young adult novel that had an apocalyptic style to it. One of the main features that draws me towards reading a book is when there are multiple points of view, and I can definitely say that this feature was done efficiently in Gone. This meant, as a reader, I was able to understand more about each character’s backstory and their individual motives and struggles.

Overall, I gave this book a 3.5/5 stars because, although I found the plot to be compelling and the concept itself unique, I sometimes felt the actions of several characters became too predictable. It also appeared to me that some of the choices the characters made didn’t seem to have a suitable reason behind it, apart from aiding to a plot twist or to simply move the story in another direction, without the action being true to the character. Gone is the first book in a series by Michael Grant and I plan to read the second book, Hunger, very soon.

The Awakening

I read The Awakening by Kate Chopin in just under a week, but what a week that was! I feel like this story will really stick with me, despite it perhaps being a slow-goer in the middle. This novel has been often described as a forerunner of feminist literature and I definitely have to agree with this!

Ultimately, I understood this novel to be about a woman’s journey to freedom, but of the internal sense. Cleverly implied by the author were moments of oppression that our female protagonist, Edna Pontellier, experienced, as well as internal confinement. The characterisation of Edna really captivated me, as I believe Chopin did an impeccable job in giving the protagonist a sense of realism in terms of her emotions and the ways she dealt with them.

To me, The Awakening is a story told about a woman and her realisation of how trapped she has been her whole life. It was interesting to read parts of Edna slowly gaining back her independence and freedom, starting with little things, like being able to deny her husband’s demands, to bigger events like moving out of a house she never really felt comfortable in. The “pigeon house”, I believe, is one of the most important symbols in the novel, embodying Edna’s early confinement, but also her late independence. However, Chopin certainly did not fail to give the story, and the fate of Edna, a realistic ending. I found Edna’s tragic drowning to be very effective for me, as a reader, because it showed how the character’s only escape from her emotional struggle against freedom was to set herself free, free from life.

Overall, I give this book a 4/5 stars, mainly because of the haunting and powerful effect it had on me and how I only realised once drawing towards the end of the book how much Edna actually went through and how it ended up being too much to overcome.


Feminism in Literature

Girl power! Feminism is something, personally, I am very passionate about and every time I see a girl kick butt in a book I have to do a mini victory dance. Despite feminism seeming to have taken the forefront in many political discussions today, this idea of gender equality stretches back as far as the 19th century. Although it is encouraging to see more and more female protagonists appear in modern YA novels such as The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare or the more widely known The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I always find myself more impressed and interested in finding trails of feminism in older, more classical novels.

Quite recently, I read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which seemed to have secretly slipped through some feminism through the cracks. Whilst most may read this short masterpiece understanding the story to be a woman’s decent into insanity, we could also view this text as a call out for revolution against oppressors of women. The male character, John, has trapped his wife inside this room, probably because she’s bonkers, but it could also symbolise how women are trapped by gender stereotyping and general mocking of their ability and independence. However, it’s not just The Yellow Wallpaper that can have a feminist reading, other classics such as A Handmaid’s Tale and Jane Eyre are also bursting with feminist ideas and theories.

Now, it would seem idiotic for me to write about feminism and not talk about Mary Wollstoncraft. This founding mother of feminism is most famous for promoting individual rights, especially against the restrictions of political power. Her main focus was the rights of women against the claims of society. When she became educated and financially independent enough, she began to advocate for all women, declaring herself a pioneer in promoting gender equality and, specifically, the respect that women should be treated with.

It still very encouraging to see feminism being widely talked about in today’s society, as well as recognising it in books and other forms of literature. I always think it’s important for any reader, but especially female ones, to see a powerful woman protagonist in a novel.