Characters

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Last Updated on August 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 434

This is an essay written in the first person, so one of the main characters is the narrator, Cixous herself. The other main character or characters are women.

Given that this is written about and for all women, we might say that women are the main and most important characters/people...

(The entire section contains 434 words.)

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This is an essay written in the first person, so one of the main characters is the narrator, Cixous herself. The other main character or characters are women.

Given that this is written about and for all women, we might say that women are the main and most important characters/people in the essay.

Men are the secondary characters. Cixous would probably take issue with calling women the protagonists and men the antagonists because it is too simplified and simply reestablishes the idea that one gender must necessarily oppose the other. However, given the history of patriarchy and men's oppression and suppression of women, it is appropriate to say that there has been a history of woman as protagonist struggling against male antagonism. Cixous wants women to liberate themselves (namely through writing) and therefore overcome that antagonism. She writes,

I write as a woman, toward women. When I say "woman," I'm speaking of woman in her inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses and to their meaning in history.

So, it would be more accurate to say that woman are the protagonists and "conventional" men (and women) are the antagonists. By "conventional," Cixous means those who support that status quo that holds men in a superior position to women.

Taking this a bit further, we might say that conventional men and women are practically antagonistic to the liberation she's encouraging. And more progressive men and women are protagonists for such a movement. This is a simplified way of defining roles in terms of character groups. But keep in mind that the whole point of Cixous's essay is not to divide women or men into groups only to have them oppose each other.

Cixous means to change the perception of the role or character of women: from the traditional passive, subservient role to a more active, equal role (in all respects) to that of men. She does this with an example: the mythological figure Medusa. In Greek myth, this powerful woman is seen as a mysterious monster. This is how conventional men and women view Medusa. Modern, progressive, or feminist people might see Medusa in a new way:

You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing.

That conventional view of Medusa, as someone men should fear and conquer, is what Cixous wants to dispel. In this essay, she reinvents Medusa and wants women to do the same for themselves. You could say she wants women to rewrite their character(s).

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