The Escape of the "Sea": by Jennifer B. Gray Nineteenth-century feminist discourse was an oppositional ideology, a resistance to obstacles to female fulfillment. The hegemonic institutions of nineteenth-century society required women to be objects in marriage and in motherhood, existing as vessels of maternity and sexuality, with little opportunity for individuality. As critic Margit Stange asserts, "self-ownership" was central to the project of nineteenthcentury feminism (506). Self-ownership connoted a woman's right to have possession of her own fully realized human identity. Inherent in this concept was not only sexual freedom and other aspects of personhood, but also "a sense of place in the community and the universe at large," through love, connection, maternity, and other aspects of fulfillment (Toth 242). Kate Chopin's The Awakening is, as Chopin biographer Emily Toth g posits, "a case study" of nineteenth-century feminism (242). Indeed, Edna Pontellier's first consciousness of her awakening is described in terms that echo the nineteenth-century feminist concept of female identity: "Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her" (Chopin 57). Her awakening makes © 2004 by
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jan 11, 2004
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