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a_woman's_voyage_of_self-discovery

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a_woman's_voyage_of_self-discovery

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    A Womans Voyage of Self-discovery

    Liu Rui

    Foreign Languages College

    Shandong Normal University

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

    A Woman’s Voyage of Self-discovery .................................................................................... 1 Abstract ................................................................................................................................ 3 Key Words ............................................................................................................................ 3 摘要 ...................................................................................................................................... 3 关键词 .................................................................................................................................. 3

     The Mermaid Chair: A Woman’s Voyage of Self-discovery ................................................... 4

    1. Classic Works on Woman ............................................................................................... 4

    1.1. A Room of One’s Own ......................................................................................... 4

    1.2. The Thorn Birds ................................................................................................... 4

    1.3. The Color Purple .................................................................................................. 4 2. A Woman’s Voyage of Self-discovery ............................................................................. 5

    2.1. Tied Down ........................................................................................................... 5

    2.2. Breaking Away ..................................................................................................... 6

    2.3. Back on Track ...................................................................................................... 8 3. Challenges for Modern Women ...................................................................................... 9

    3.1. Coping with the Speeding Life Pace ..................................................................... 9

    3.2. Making Balance of the Roles .............................................................................. 10 4. Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 10 References .......................................................................................................................... 11

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    Abstract

    Women in the past century have struggled to rid oppression and to eliminate gender

    stinequality in laws and culture. While in the 21 century, more attention is paid to spiritual

    aspects on which Sue Monk Kidds The Mermaid Chair is centered. Jessie Sullivan, a

    middle-aged wife and mother, senses her life molded to the smallest space possible-she

    plays her domestic roles at the expense of her self. The call from her mothers best friend

    provides her with a chance to reclaim her ability to astonish herself. At Egret, an island

    almost isolated from the rest of the world. There she finally learns the truth of her beloved fathers death which has haunted her since her childhood. Meanwhile, she finds herself madly in love with a monk in the abbey next to her mothers house. Though her affair with Brother

    Thomas may be deemed condemnable, yet that unrightful but soulful relationship has thrown light on her voyage to self-discovery. Freed from guilt and burden, filled with vigor and passion, Jessie starts her life afresh.

    Key Words

    Woman Roles Balance Self-discovery

    摘要

    从十八世纪到二十世纪(女性问题侧重的一直是女权(但进入二十一世纪以来(女性精

    神世界受到越来越多的关注(苏?蒙克?基德所著《美人鱼的椅子》涉及的正是这个领

    域。既为人母又为人妻的杰西?沙利文发现她的生活空间已经局限到快盛不下自己了—

    —妻子和母亲的双重家庭角色正在逐渐吞噬她的自我。母亲好友的一个电话将她召回了

    离开多年的故乡(一个几乎与世隔绝的小岛。在那里(她得知了自己深爱的父亲去世的

    真相。她曾为父亲的死自责多年(但事实上那件“意外”却与她无关。此外(杰西发现

    自己无可救药地爱上了母亲住所隔壁寺院里的修道士托马斯。尽管她与托马斯的这段感

    情并不合乎情理风俗(但却让她找到迷失多年的自我(开始了她崭新的生活。

    关键词

    女性 角色 平衡 自我发现

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    The Mermaid Chair: A Womans Voyage of Self-discovery

    1. Classic Works on Woman

    1.1. A Room of Ones Own

    Woolf Virginias long essay A Room of Ones Own, originally adopted from two lectures the

    author gave, deals with the basic thesis that in the past women possessed no great influence in literature-the great wealth of fiction written about women is quite unproportionate to the amount of it which are done by women. Woolf knows there are differences between man and woman and she allows that to be, what she emphasizes is why women fail to step out of mens shadow and develop their own style of fiction. According to Woolf, it is due to a mixed lack of education, financial support, privacy and social experience that women never get the upper hand in this sphere. Yet she does not suggest that woman should not follow suit, instead she warns against women that “The weight, the pace, the stride of a man’s mind are too

    unlike (woman’s)…for her to lift anything substantial from him successfully” (Woolf 76) and

    encourages women to clear the hurdles that afflict their sex and write “as women write, not as

    men write” (Woolf 74). Her call then is for women to gain intellectual freedom and

    financially independence with which they have a chance to occupy a place in literary circle. 1.2. The Thorn Birds

    Daring, tough, intransigent, thus is the protagonist in The Thorn Birds. As a girl, she is neglected in a family full of boys. As a woman, she nurses an irrevocable love which is domed right from the beginning. As a wife, she shared a marriage with a man devoid of any tender feeling. As a mother, she is robbed of her favorite child from whom all her comfort deprives. Life has been cruel to her, yet she embraces it unflinchingly. To love, Maggie is faithful and daring though she knows all along that is to no avail. When her lover can not echo with her feeling, she transfers all her affection to her son. It seems that she has sought asylum from her children and maternal duties. The death of her son and her lover impales Maggie’s heart brutally just as the thorn bird pierces itself upon the sharpest spine. The one theme the novel tries to imply: the dearest things must be swamped with unfathomable expense. What is not meant for Maggie is bound to be taken away from her. Thats when her

    shackles are broken and she is eventually freed. 1.3. The Color Purple

    The Color Purple taps much depressing and miserable aspects of black womens life in first

    half of the twentieth century. At that time, white men held prejudice unwaveringly against

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    black men. Those black men, instead of enjoying the wonders of domestic life, let out on black women, in particular, their wives. It is in such a disadvantageous or even vicious circumstance that black women begin to identify with and turn to each other. What Walker praises in this novel is the friendly and sisterly woman-woman relationship. The oppression from the society and the opposite gender already bears heavily on them. Without the support and love from the same gender, these women are not far from breaking down. By holding on to each other and to themselves, they not only put themselves out of their previous suffering but also manage to change the attitude men have long held toward them. Obedience is never the solution to oppression, women have to fight and stand up for themselves to take control of their own life. Yet above all, they also need a loving and forgiving heart to embrace that all life have to deal them with. The Color Purple is about endurance, fight, growth and independence, all nurtured by love.

    2. A Womans Voyage of Self-discovery

    2.1. Tied Down

    Women’s orientation toward care and personal relationships seemed mainly to reflect the social

    role of the traditional, full-time heterosexual wife and mother. …This role, however, is morally

    problematic. Although it has brought satisfaction to many women, it limits women’s lives in

    important ways. It requires female heterosexuality, promotes women’s independence on men and

    consequent economic and social vulnerability, and submerges women’s own desires and aspirations

    in the moral project of caring endlessly for others.

    A relational care perspective might well be limited and flawed by the oppressive aspects of the

    role experiences that produced it.

    Jessie has married to Hugh for twenty years. She gets used to Hughs breathing, small

    puffs of air coming from his lower lip, so regular and well timed that its like a metronome.

    She knows that before shaving, Hugh habitually taps his razor three times on the sink. Jessie claims, the problem is not that they grow apart, but that they grow too much together. As their marriage spans, Jessie’s own life has interweaved with her husbands. Her life has been

    rearranged in order to reconcile with Hugh’s. Only she does not know, by yielding to her

    marriage, she is losing, little by little, her self-identity. Their life together is eroding her curiosity and creativeness. Jessie is living in an incomplete and depressing way.

    The monotony of the life pattern is another source of pressure that weighs Jessie down. Everyday passes in the same pace and manner. Life is like a still and static like, no fresh air blowing over its surface, it never ripples. It has lost its appeal to Jessie. “Like animals taken

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    from the wild and put in nice, simulated habitats where they turned complacent, knowing exactly where their next meal would come from. All the hunt and surprise drained out of it.”

    The boredom of going through the routine repeatedly is suffocating Jessie, she is in desperate need of some fresh air.

    To make things worse, Jessie is sacrificing her private space. She hardly has any distraction in her time alone, and her career as a shadow box artist is poorly managed. Most of her time and attention are paid on Hugh and their daughter, Dee. Also, the book never mentions she has any friend or social activity. Jessie has long withdrawn herself from the crowd and guarded herself carefully. Like a fish in a tank, she swims in a limited and transparent space. You can see her every move, but you have no clue as to what she is thinking.

    Yet hidden deep, a scar also contributes to Jessie’s withdrawal, her father’s death. Jessie

    always assumes that she is to blame for the death of her father, killed in a terrible fire on his boat. Upon that, her life has taken a sharp turn-she has difficulty in opening herself up ever since. Thirty years does not erase the guilt that Jessie has secretly laid upon herself. She deliberately avoids any contact with things that may remind her of that accident and ends up estranging from her mother, who faithfully dwells on Egret Island upon whose coast her father was burned along with his ship, Jes-Sea.

    To step out of Hugh’s shadow, break the set life style and shed the domestic impediments, to rid her of the sense of guilt, Jessie needs a breakaway. Thats when Jessie

    receives the phone call from her mother Nelle’s best friend, Kat.

2.2. Breaking Away

    When a person is in need of cataclysmic change, of a whole new centre in the personality, for

    instance, his or her psyche would induce an infatuation, an erotic attachment, an intense

    falling-in-love.

    Falling in love was the oldest, most ruthless catalyst on earth.

    Typically you fell in love with something missing in yourself that you recognized in the other

    person.

    Nelle has deliberately cut off her finger with a meat cleaver. Frenetic with concern, and apprehensive at the prospect of setting foot again on the island that she has seized the first opportunity to leave after her beloved father’s death, Jessie boards the next plane. In coping

    with her mother’s startling and enigmatic behavior of violence, Jessie meets Whit, or Brother Thomas, a monk in the neighbouring monastery, with whom she shares a immediate and

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    intense affection. As their relationship unfolds, Jessie experiences an overwhelming spiritual, artistic and erotic resurrection. When Nelle’s mental condition takes a turn for the worse, her caring friends stage an intervention where Jessie finally learns the truth of her father’s death.

    2.2.1. Body and Soul

    Jessie’s unpromising relationship with Brother Thomas is the highlight of this book. Out of physical chemistry and shared sorrow, they are wildly drawn to each other. Though Jessie struggles to stifle her intense desire for Brother Thomas, she soon finds herself in erotic sexual relationship with him-her long oppressed longing freed and satisfied. The ecstasy of the body brings back the lost pieces of Jessie’s self-identity and makes her once more feel

    complete and alive with happiness and passion. That guaranteed, Jessie is ready to throw away all moral scruples. “Some say I fell from grace; they’re being kind. I didn’t fall-I

    dove. ” That is special about Jessie. She does not regret at all, nor does she feel ashamed. Instead there is frankness and warmth in her tone which makes this unallowed relationship less repellent and more touching. Nevertheless, it is not pure lust, but a spiritual pilgrimage to her own soul. It awakens her self-identity. Why would Jessie choose Brother Thomas, of all people? It is because Brother Thomas is capable of dealing with loneliness and actually appreciating it. It is his “monkness” that Jessie deems most appealing. He is the rescuer and

    Baptist she needs to bring back a pure and complete Jessie.

    2.2.2. A Solitude of Being

    Once on the island, Jessie has plenty of time, time when she could be separated from the rest of the world and be alone. She paddles the little canoe along and discovers a colony where she could be herself with abandon and without reserve. Some times she just enjoys and pleases herself. Other times she would think about her life, delving deep into her own sensuality and selfhood, trying to figure things out. It is a process of self-communicating and self-healing.

    Jessie’s painting is the reflection of her solitude voyage. Jessie used to be a wild

    mermaid in the sea until Hugh takes her home. Gradually she is besieged by domestic duties and a stagnant life pace. Her wildness and adventurousness wears off. She’s bored and tired like the mermaid stuck in the shallow waters. Looking for a change of scene, she dives into the sea, deeper and more rapturously toward the bottom, determined to touch what lies beneath the sea floor. That echoes with Jessie’s reckless love and desire for Brother Thomas.

    Then, when Jessie realises an affair is not a solution to a marriage that has lost its way, the mermaid strives to go up.

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    2.2.3. The Truth

    Nelle’s friends can not take more of her self-mutilation, they intervene to stop Nelle

    from turning worse. They tell Jessie the truth. Out of dignity for himself and love for the beloveds, her father Joe, tormented by some mysterious disease, planned his own death, and begged several people, Nelle included, to carry it out for him. Jessie feels relieved. The anguish she nourishes at the bottom of her heart finds an outlet at last.

    Ever since her father died, Jessie’s world has been overthrown. She is not bonded with

    her home the way when her father was there. The isolated island becomes a haunted place, hovered by dreadful memories. As time drags on, Jessie drifts away further and further away from her home, fading away with the sense of rootlessness. Though she avoids returning to the island as much as possible, she can not fill the crevice that the loss of her father has made in her life.

    Having learned the truth and seen her mother recover from the thirty years of agony, Jessie establishes a new and tight connection with her mother and the island, which in turn helps her find the solution to her identity and marriage problems.

2.3. Back on Track

    2.3.1. Home

    I felt the pull that must happen inside the egrets when the moon rises in the early dark-that

    unbearable tug home.

    Despite her flagrant betrayal, Jessie’s love for Hugh never ceases. With her root deeply

    buried, she knows the only place where she can thrive-home.

    Jessie has fled home to evade her marital standstill, and she rushes back to rescue it-for she realises Hugh and Dee are the ones she can not bear to part with. From all that has happened, Jessie learns she wants “the enduring”, “the beautiful enduring” which can be guaranteed only by a solid marriage.

    Hugh comes to awareness that Jessie’s metamorphosis is partly because of his unconscious control over Jessie and his lack of concern for Jessie’s mental suffering. Being a loving and forgiving man, Hugh makes amendment of his own-to give Jessie enough space to grow into herself”.

    It is easy to see they reach a conclusion that to keep a marriage lasting and vigorous, togetherness and separateness are equally important. Though that episode of Brother Thomas is a stain on their relationship but they are ready to wipe it off, using his forgiveness for her and her enduring love for him.

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    2.3.2. Personal Autonomy

    Feminists believed instead that personal autonomy is a desirable trait for women, one which

    could enable them to resist oppression and live fulfilling lives.

    Jessie. I take you, Jessie…

    For better or for worse.

    To love and to cherish.

    This is one of the most beautiful scenes of the book, of Jessie ultimately creating a marriage with herself. It can be regarded as the finale of her voyage of self-discovery. Throughout her life, Jessie has always depended upon other people to make herself feel complete, first her father, then Hugh and Brother Thomas until it dawns in her that this can not be done by anyone but herself. Jessie claims the autonomy of herself. In other words, Jessie relies upon herself in understanding and choice, in the general sense of choosing how to act and live her own life.

    Jessie sets out anew. She gives up her shadow box and picks up painting, her true gift. She forms a bond with her mother. She makes up with Hugh. Above all, she is faithful to herself and she belongs to herself only.

    st3. Challenges Facing Women in the 21 Century

3.1. Coping with the Speeding Life Pace

    stThe past ten year of the 21 century has witnessed tremendous social changes and

    scientific and technological development. Standards of life improves while rate of competition increases. Modern women find themselves in an unprecedentedly challenging situation.

    Recent statistics shows that forty-four percent employed women have no time for recreation and relaxation, even worse, sixty-six percent of the interviewed have to shoulder the responsibility of doing housework. Other researches give evidence to the deteriorating conditions of women, both physically and mentally. Cervical spondylopathy, cardiovascular diseases, depression, sleep deprivation are no rarity now. Some severely depressed people even goes so far as to commit suicide. While the disaffected ones may take to the opposite extreme as to harm other people.

    It’s enough to sound the alarm. Experts warn that it is high time women paid attention to

    their health. Avoiding extra work hours and staying up as much as possible. Grant yourself

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    some time to leisure and sport. Don’t border greediness on ambition. Keep some friends in

    whom you can confide. If all none of these methods works, then it is time to ask for professional help.

    It is advisable, however, that man share domestic duties with his wife and offer support and suggestion when his other half is in trouble.

    3.2. Making Balance of the Roles

    In the conventional notion, a woman’s role are bearing and caring children,

    supporting her husband and doing housework. But as feminist movement develops and spreads, women are playing more roles of the society. The good side of it is women are gaining more rights that used to belong only to their opposite gender; the bad side of it is more weight is bearing down on their shoulders and sometimes these roles conflict with each other. Working women who have children experience even more demands on time, energy and resources.

    To make it simple, modern women’s roles can be roughly divided into two groups, the ones at home and the ones at work. The key to balance is wise arrangement and efficiency. Make a timetable, mark the time to be devoted to the family and the time to be spent on work. Women are more observant than, take this advantage to learn from the ones that are good at saving time and energy and then apply their methods to your own practise to improve your own efficiency. This way, you can come home with no work, and leave for work with no household concern. Yet there are cases when you can not handle the dual roles you are leading, and then you should weigh your priority and be wise to give up the less important one.

    4. Conclusion

    In a fast-paced, competitive society, women bears more burden than their male peers and are more prone to injury. Despite the odds, women should take control of themselves and be true to their soul. Though family and friends are trustworthy, one should depend on herself to address the problems that she encounters in life. Efforts are needed to make balance of the role one plays so that they do not contradict with each other.

    Yet just as stated above, women are more delicate and fragile. The society, as the immediate beneficiary of women’s good deeds should attach more importance to the

    well-being of them and provide them with more support and amenity.

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