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Breaking the Bell Jar?  Femininity in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Humanities.
2010 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay focuses on female identity formation in patriarchal society in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Both authors portray female characters who struggle with the normative gender identity. As the novels represent different eras and locations, the two characters examined in this essay, Woolf’s Lily Briscoe and Plath’s Esther Greenwood, have very little in common on the surface. However, both authors deliver similar feminist social criticism concerning the negative impact of patriarchal norms on female identity formation. This study analyzes some of these external constraints, or norms, and aims to prove that the two female characters’ ideas of womanhood and identity collide in a similar manner with those norms. Schachter’s study on identity constraints in identity formation and Sanchez and Crocker’s research on gender ideals work as the theoretical background in the study. The negative influence on Lily’s and Esther’s identity formation is similar since both characters live under a symbolical bell jar, unable to form their identity according to their own preferences. Patriarchal conventions remain a constant constraint and the two women keep struggling to find a balance between their own ideas and those of their societies. Both Lily and Esther grow to understand their own traits, desires and abilities in their respective stories, but fail to reach their preferred identity. Their resistance to adapt to gender conventions helps them to form a stronger identity, but it is an identity that remains profoundly and negatively influenced by the patriarchal norms of their societies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. , p. 38
Keywords [en]
femininity, gender, identity formation, patriarchy, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-7393Archive number: HEU:C10:8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-7393DiVA, id: diva2:345409
Uppsok
Humanities, Theology
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Available from: 2010-08-26 Created: 2010-08-25 Last updated: 2010-08-27Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard-cite-them-right
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • sv-SE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • de-DE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf