How can I apply  Feminism in "Arrival of the Snake Woman?" From excerpts in the story, where is Feminist theory evident?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which feminist thought is present in Senior's story is in how the snake woman captures the imagination of women in the narrative.  The construction of women that is featured is a social one.  This means that there are different rules that govern how men behave and how women are to function:

Although I never heard the men tell anyone of their plans, people
must have suspected that something was about to happen, for there was an expectancy in the air and after the men finally left—and there was nothing unusual about his friends accompanying Moses back to the Bay—everyone seemed to be excitedly wondering when Cephas and SonSon would return.

The men possess a great deal of freedom, to the extent that they do not need to tell anyone of their comings and goings.  This is not the case for women in the story, who are bound by domestic and traditional notions of the good.  It is for this reason that the conventional view of the snake woman is one of fear and dread.  She is described as "the other," reflected in descriptions such as the "Heathen’s sinful lust for gold."  She is seen in a distinctly negative light because she challenges the conventional notion of what it means to be a woman.  It is in this regard where the speaker is entranced with the snake woman, primarily because she challenges the socially stratified construction of what it means to be a woman: "And yet, I didn’t care. I was already half in love with the snakewoman, with her nose ring and tinkling ornaments and her outrageous, barbaric ways."  The speaker admires how the snakewoman challenges what is and transforms it into what can be:

But what really held me even far away were her eyes, which were black like a dark night and took up half her face and when I finally came close and looked into these eyes, they seemed so far-away and sorrowful that I felt I was looking deep into the Ganges.

There is a complexity and intricacy in the snake woman that is not necessarily evident in the society that surrounds the speaker.  In being able to redefine the parameters of feminine identity, the ending of the story validates how the speaker envisions what can be from what is:  "...without conscious thought I found myself moving from my hiding place behind the khus-khus and walking confidently towards her."

Feminist theory is evident in this movement.  The transformation into what women can be as opposed to blind capitulation to social expectations.  The fact that the snake woman represents what might be for women and that the protagonist is able to embrace what might be represents how women are able to challenge existing structures and remake their identity in accordance to their own subjectivity.  An example of feminist theory can be found in this progression in the narrative.

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