A Study on the Female Image in The Moon and Sixpence from the Perspective of Feminist Literary Criticism

  The novel “The Moon and Sixpence” is the second masterpiece of the famous and prolific British writer William Somerset Maugham. It was written in 1919 and has been introduced and published by many domestic publishing houses. ‘s favorite. The book tells the story of a British stock exchange broker who gave up his career, left his homeland and his original comfortable and happy life, and went abroad to pursue his artistic ideals through the first-person perspective and from the perspective of a bystander. In the process of depicting the protagonist Strickland abandoning the hustle and bustle of real life and pursuing the ideal of perfect painting, the author also focuses on three female images who have close emotional relationships with him, that is, the protagonist’s wife, Ami, and the protagonist’s lover, Bo. Ranche – Stroeve’s wife, and the protagonist’s most satisfied woman – Tahiti girl Eta. These three women appear at different stages of the protagonist’s life. By sacrificing their family, property and even their lives, they have achieved the protagonist’s fascinated artistic dream. The characters are full and full of distinctive personalities. Therefore, this article hopes to analyze the three female images portrayed in the works from the perspective of feminist literary criticism, so as to explore the writer Maugham’s view of women, in order to provide readers with a better interpretation of “The Moon and Sixpence” as a reference, and also Bring some inspiration for the growth and maturity of modern women.
  I. Feminist Literary Critic
  Theory Feminist literary criticism is developed on the basis of the feminist movement. It absorbs the strengths of different criticism schools for its own use, so the theoretical system is relatively complex (Meng Deyan, 2010). Its research background can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s. It aims to take women as the subject of literary research, and conduct literary criticism on the image of women in texts, the creation of women authors, and the reading of women readers (Pei Fangyi, 2020). In the late 1980s, the theory of feminist literary criticism in the modern sense was introduced into China through translation and dissemination and took root (Tang Linyi and Liu Songna, 2021). Criticism has achieved fruitful results and began to flourish.
  From the perspective of the development process, feminist literary criticism has experienced three distinct stages of development. The first stage was from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, which mainly studied the “misogyny” in literature. In literature, male culture distorts and degrades female images. The second stage is from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. It mainly analyzes the classic literary works of female writers from a feminist perspective, and concentrates on the criticism of language and literature. The third stage is after the mid-1980s, re-examining and rethinking some basic concepts and connotations of literary research, no longer limited to literature itself, and forming a multi-disciplinary and gender-breakthrough feminist cultural theory pattern.
  Deconstructing the male-centred framework of literary traditions is mainly achieved by examining, analyzing, and examining the outdated images of women in men’s literature to account for the prejudices implicit in those literatures, because analyzing women’s images in literature is feminist literature Criticism is the earliest concern (Luo Ting et al., 2004). In the view of feminist literary critics, in traditional literary works, male writers always have two extremes of black and white when they shape the image of women. For example, in “The Mad Woman in the Attic” in 1979, an American writer discussed two distorted female images of “angels and temptresses”. Such distorted images were common in Western male literature before the 19th century. The “angel” image of women is depicted with innocence, beauty, generosity, tenderness and consideration, and selfless dedication, and the image of women’s “temptress” is depicted with cunning, mean, ugly, evil, domineering, greedy and selfish. The novel “The Moon and Sixpence” reflects such two completely different female images, which are worthy of our deconstruction and exploration.
  2. Analysis of the female images in
  ”The Moon and Sixpence” “The Moon and Sixpence” is a work centered on masculinity, and the writer Maugham was biased in shaping the three female images in the novel. The novel adopts male narrative techniques, deliberately suppressing women’s own personal characteristics and ignoring the objective existence of “them” in the works, so that they rely on male discourse and cannot speak for themselves well. Therefore, this paper hopes to change the research perspective, from the perspective of feminist literary criticism, to interpret the images of the three main female characters in the novel, so as to explore the author Maugham’s own attitudes and views on women.
  (1) Ami, the protagonist’s wife
  In the novel, the protagonist Strickland’s wife, Ami, is a very typical image of a traditional housewife who is “good wife and good mother” and “loving vanity”. She is dignified, diligent and capable, manages housework in an orderly manner, raises her children to be healthy, lovely and excellent, has a likable personality, is kind to others, knows how to properly listen, sympathize, and consider others, and can give reasonable and constructive advice. The social culture at that time regulated and limited women’s behavior, believing that women should return to the family and be loyal to the mission of being a good wife and a good mother entrusted by the society, while women can only choose to obey and accept in order to find an external identity. This kind of female social role is accustomed to each other, and it is the result of the long-term suppression and restraint of female personality characteristics and self-consciousness, which is not conducive to the full play of female subject value.
  However, after the protagonist ran away from home for the artistic ideal in his heart, all the seemingly happy and happy lives that Ami carefully built also collapsed in an instant, resulting in the vanity and hypocrisy of his human nature began to be exposed. In order to meet the trend, she is eager to make friends with literati, hoping to occupy a seat in the society. She thought she knew her husband very well and believed that he loved her, her children and their family deeply, but she didn’t know anything about him. Her husband’s running away from home left her at a loss as to what to do. In order to maintain her high reputation as a virtuous person, she categorically believed that her husband had run away with other women, in order to win the sympathy of everyone. In order to maintain the integrity of the family, she wrote several times begging her husband to go home and reconcile with her. When she learned that her husband did not run away with others, but refused to look back for the sake of painting, not only did she have no understanding or sympathy, but she also cursed him to die in poverty, hunger and cold. In a patriarchal society, women are dependent on men for a long time. Without a husband, there is no source of income, so Ami had to run a typing shop to achieve independence. However, she is vain and minds that her work will lower her social status, so after she got her husband’s inheritance, she resolutely closed the typing office, she believes that a decent woman should be supported by others. But according to feminist literary critics, the most respectable women endure the most social oppression. Ami’s hypocrisy is driven by vanity and wants to create a beautiful and decent image for herself.
  The details can be seen. For a long time, from the perspective of binary opposition, the relationship between Ami and her husband has been in an unbalanced state. Under the control of her husband’s male consciousness for a long time, Ami has long been attached to her husband, and has lost her personality, career and independent consciousness. Whether it is a good wife and mother or hypocritical vanity, she obeys and accepts the social constraints and regulations on women’s behavior. The role of his good wife and mother eventually became the victim of men and families.
  (2) The protagonist’s lover, Blanche – Stroeve’s wife. Blanche in
  Maugham ‘s writings is portrayed as a “demon woman” who is dominated by love. To describe Blanche with today’s Internet buzzwords, she has a terrible “love brain”. Before Strickland appeared, she was a hard-working, dignified wife, and Stroeve lived a peaceful and loving life. At first, she hated the rude and rude behavior of the protagonist Strickland, and hoped that the protagonist would die when he was ill, and even knew that Strickland would not have a good ending and would give them to them. bring disaster. But she was attracted by “some evil temperament” in Strickland, eager to satisfy her own desires and possessions. When Stroeve, her beloved husband, begged Blanche to change his mind, the wife gave up her morals, became the embodiment of lust, and ruthlessly abandoned her husband. In Maugham’s view, women are never soft-hearted towards people they don’t love, and the methods are extremely cruel. However, she was willing to give everything for Strickland, even knowing he had nothing. She loved Strickland with all her heart, and would rather support him with her own hard-earned money. But Strickland felt that women were just a tool for him to vent his lust, and his heart was full of art, and he couldn’t accommodate love that wasted energy. Therefore, he refused Blanche’s love without hesitation. Blanche’s moth-to-fire efforts are not rewarded, and it is destined to stage Faust’s “tragedy of love”.

  From the perspective of Maugham’s male-centered creation, Blanche is a ruthless and ruthless female figure who is cast aside by the world, and who is dominated by love and abandons morality. But in the eyes of feminist literary critics, she is also a woman manipulated and oppressed by patriarchal society and patriarchal consciousness. Her cruelty to her husband is because of her moth-like dedication to love. She chose to destroy herself and did not accept the mercy of her ex-husband, reflecting the silent resistance of women to the patriarchal society in despair.
  (3) The protagonist’s most satisfied woman – the girl Eta from
  Tahiti The indigenous girl Eta on Tahiti is a kind and innocent but slightly ignorant and distorted “angel” image. Eta is more than thirty years younger than the protagonist Strickland and is loyal to love. When Strickland threatened to beat her, she said, “How else would I know you love me.” In his eyes, Eta was just looking for a white man. But in Strickland’s eyes, Eta was the perfect accessory to satisfy all his needs and imaginations. She worked hard, could cook, babysit, and she would do whatever he instructed her to do. Never interfere with Strickland’s painting, nor ask the man to repay himself in the form of love or material things. This idealized “angel” also had enough wealth to allow Strickland to live a carefree life and focus on his artistic ideals. However, when Strickland learned that he had a fatal leprosy and the natives shunned him, Eta said: “You are my man and I am your woman. Where are you going, I am Where to go.” He insisted on following him to the mountain, never leaving. In the end, after Strickland’s death, Eta insisted on fulfilling Strickland’s last wish, and regardless of the kind persuasion of others, a torch set the stunning frescoes and the house on fire. This kind of deep love is full of ignorance. The novel reveals her full love for men and unconditional obedience to the man’s requirements of “coming and going”.
  In Maugham’s pen, Eta, who is far away from the world, is portrayed as loyal and unswerving, but in fact, she is extremely ignorant, has no desires, and is willing to be a man’s accessory. Even so, men will not express gratitude to women, but feel that women are strange animals without souls, and even if they are treated as cows and horses, they will still love them deeply. But in the eyes of feminist literary critics, this reflects the humble status of women in a patriarchal society, victims of moral norms and standards of conduct. This kind of moral code and behavioral standard requires them to make concessions to men, to submit to what is wrong, to pay for their families without regrets, and to work hard without complaining. What is even more regrettable is that although Eta was shackled and cruelly suppressed by the patriarchy, she had no sense of resistance at all, acquiesced and condoned this shackles, and did not receive due social respect and equal love from her husband.
  To sum up, these three important female images portrayed by Maugham are obviously integrated into his own view of women. Through feminist literary evaluation theory, it is not difficult to see that Maugham’s attitude towards women is consistent with the attitude of the protagonist in the novel. , they catered to the attitudes and requirements of the mainstream society towards women in the patriarchal society at that time, and their definition of the ideal woman was dignified and generous, absolutely obedient, hard-working, courageous and sacrificed. The narrative technique of the novel is narrated from the perspective of the male protagonist. The three female characters are in subordinate positions and live under the absolute control of the male protagonist’s consciousness. The female images portrayed in this way are pessimistic and prejudiced. On the one hand, Somerset Maugham unceremoniously criticized the three women, showing his strong disgust and dissatisfaction; Among them, the most obvious manifestation of prejudice against women is to regard women as an “other” image, a male appendage and victim without spirituality and subjectivity. In a patriarchal society, women who want to break the shackles of this social code of conduct and realize their female values ​​will eventually lead to a greater tragedy. Therefore, women can only give up their subjectivity and pursuit of female values, accept and obey this. The society’s constraints on women’s behavior and the regulations on women’s roles are to be the adherents of this society. Therefore, through the exploration of the three female images in the novel, I hope to provide readers with a new perspective and reference to better interpret the female view of “The Moon and Sixpence”, and also hope to bring some enlightenment to the growth of modern women. .

error: Content is protected !!