In Éilís Ní Dhuibhne's short story "Blood and Water," what are the key themes that make it a feminist work?

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“Blood and Water” is a short story written by the Irish author Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. It was first published in 1988.

When first reading the story, the reader may not necessarily notice any particular feminist angles standing out within the story. However, when looking at the short story in more detail, one can actually see why some people regard “Blood and Water” as a feminist story.

The main theme of the short story is mental illness. The narrator’s aunt is suffering from a mental illness, which becomes clear in the very first sentence: “I have an aunt who is not the full shilling.” This might not strike the reader as a particularly feminist theme, but it is quite telling that the narrator has chosen to write about a female suffering from a mental illness rather than a male. What makes this theme a feminist theme is the fact that the aunt copes well in life, despite the fact that she is mentally ill and hard of hearing. She doesn’t give up or despair; she simply gets on with life. As a result, she is not treated as a social outcast by those around her, which underlines her strength and therefore the feminist connotation of the story.

This is further underlined by the fact that the aunt is not afraid to show her true feelings. For example, she is not embarrassed to cry in public, much to the narrator's surprise. One could argue that the author uses this as an appeal to the reader to stop hiding their emotions. The author wants people to be more honest about themselves and about their feelings. People should not have to be embarrassed about their feelings and emotions. Women are often regarded as weak, because they are supposedly more emotional than men. However, through the character of the aunt, the author shows the reader how questionable this perception is. As a result, this turns a key theme of the short story into a feminist theme.

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