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A Farewell To Arms Within The Critical Framework Of Feminism And The Principles Of Post Structuralism

3292 words - 14 pages

This essay is an attempt to examine A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, within the critical theoretical framework of Chris Weedon’s essay, ‘Feminism and the Principles of Post Structuralism’. At the heart of feminist post structuralism lies the theory of post structuralism itself. The theory offers a way to study the conditions of how knowledge is produced. To understand an object it is necessary to study both the object and the systems within which it is produced and lives. Post-feminist structuralism seeks to examine the production of knowledge as it impacts on gender. The pervasiveness of male discourse is a particular target for post-structuralist feminism. What I hope to ...view middle of the document...

Hemingway feels that when a writer includes omissions or breaks in their writing, this gives the reader a chance to see things in their own perspective. These breaks allow the reader to think about the kind of tone and setting the story may have and to actively think about the characters independently rather than be led by the hand through the story.

As Owens-Murphy notes in her essay ‘critics have noted Hemingway’s aversion to theory and abstraction and his penchant for the practical and the concrete’(87). I will admit that this is where I begin to become confused. Post structuralist theorists would have us construct Catherine and Frederick’s world using language, feminist post structuralist theorists defining their roles by gender. By doing this they consign Frederick to a world of macho war mongering whereby a young man travels hundreds of miles to be an American in an Italian war, ferrying the wounded and the dead from danger to safety; drinking and whoring by night, even contracting gonorhea at one point from the prostitutes he visits. Catherine is defined by the dominance she allows Frederick Henry to have over her. She is criticised for being a supplicant to his needs and desires.

Catherine Barkley and the historical context of the First World War.

Prior to the First World War the position of women within British society was largely unseen within the public sphere. So called ‘women’s work’ (Smith, 2000) was mainly domestic service and was considered inferior to work done by men, reflected in the disparity of pay between the sexes. Added to which was the idea that once women were married they would give up work and revert to their natural roles within the private sphere of wife and mother. The First World War played a central role in the social movement of women from the domestic to the public sphere. Whilst men fought the war on the continent women were expected to maintain the running of the country, everything from agriculture to architecture and everything in between.

But behind this seeming status quo things were happening. The beginning of the twentieth century found women in a very positive position. Progress, albeit fairly slow, had been made in the arenas of women’s general rights, education and the medical profession. The turn of the century found women pushing harder than ever for the right to vote, with the amalgamation of many smaller suffragette societies forming one larger union, the National Union of Women’s Suffragette Societies; women’s rights and their fight for them became part of the political agenda. One of the strongest arguments made against women’s right to equal citizenship with men was that as women were not able to represent their country on the field of battle (making the ultimate sacrifice) they should not be entitled to equal rights as men. Women had gone to war in previous conflicts, however their role was that of nurse, placed firmly within the hospitals units set up to care for...

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