What are the characteristics of Woman-centred Novel?

1 Answer | Add Yours

litelle209's profile pic

litelle209 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

This depends on the period we are looking at. Even though all have in common that they address issues specific to women, these issues have changed over time. During the 19th century, driven by the Cult of True Womanhood that regarded women as having a natural inclination toward motherhood and domesticity, and as being the kinder, gentler sex that can better the world through high standards of morality, we find two forms of fiction.

There is for one domestic fiction or sentimental fictionwhich always has a coming of age plot that centers around a female heroine. Nina Baym rightly suggests that domestic fiction of the period "exists in two parallel versions. In one, the heroine begins as a poor and friendless child. Most frequently an orphan, she sometimes only thinks herself to be one, or has by necessity been separated from her parents for an indefinite time. In the second, the heroine is a pampered heiress who becomes poor and friendless in mid-adolescence, through the death or financial failure of her legal protectors". By the end of the story the female heroine always acquires a sense of self and position in the world, but is almost always attached to a male protector or guardian ( hence the female protagonists end up married).

This type of fiction highlights interior spaces (inside the house for instance) and psychological insight and appeals to readers' emotions (hence it is called sentimental fiction).

The other type that was prominent during the period, but can not necessarily be considered woman centered, are texts that highlight female morality as superior to men's. A good example is Uncle Tom's Cabin. Written by a female author, it portrays female characters as almost always inherently sympathetic to the abolitionist cause because they are able to sympathize with the plight of slavery better than men. They are endowed with humanist impulses that men seemingly lack.

After the turn of the century and with the onset of  modernism and feminism, fiction becomes increasingly revisionist and complicated in nature. The plot is no longer straight forward, but can most often be considered as a probing into the strata of the social fabricand what it means to not only be a woman, but also to be a woman or a certain class (such as in Edith Wharton's writings e.g.) or ethnicity (such as Toni Morrision later). In this type of writing we most often find wwomanhood as a journey or quest for identity that emerges throughout the narrative in relation to the community or the world, to men, and, very often, in relation to other women. Good examples of the more recent period are Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston who explore what it means to be Chinese, American, and female.

We’ve answered 317,542 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question