«Suicide and murder are considered two facets of the same coin: they originate in anger. Whereas suicide is the result of turning one's anger against ...»
the woman attacks her husband's books and sets the marriage bed on fire, screaming, "I kill you! I kill you!" Rather, the literature that precedes the feminist revolution abounds in heroines who kill themselves instead of killing the abusive others. Consider, for example, "The Story of an Hour" (1899) and "The Awakening" (1899) by Kate Chopin (1976). "The Story of an Hour" is about the sense of liberation from the shackles of a "good" marriage. A young married woman gains a sense of freedom, of vitality and happiness when she learns about her husband's death. However, she does not transcend the stage of victimhood. Her anger with "that powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a 78 Raehel Giora private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime..." is not acted out, but is directed inwardly against herself and brings on her self-destruction. When she realizes she has been misinformed about his death, she "chooses" to die [of a heart attack].
"The Awakening" also protests the oppression of marriage, suggesting that it is deadly to women. In this novella, a young woman who is fed up with the roles of mother an,-ife, revolts and decides to give up her relations with her hus an an' c..wdren. Her liberation from patriarchal conventions culminates' -ha seems a most sensuous act of suicidal merging with the sea.8 The protest, :. ~ oi "irginia Woolf are also filled with heroines who kill themseh-es' stea : killing the abusive others. The Voyage Out (1915), "A Room of O:te'· O. n (1929), "Lappin and Lapinova" (1939) :e~ ;Woolf, 1944: 60-68), (1940) (ibid.: 107-114),are exemplary. In the novel The eroine's voyage ends in her death rather :loC:: 0-;.0.;, ;.;
The vision of self-destruction that typifies the angry heroines of feminist writings before the feminist revolution gives way to more empowering
visions in the literature that follows the feminist revolution:
After the boy at the supermarket had called her those names, Evelyn Couch had felt violated. Raped by words. Stripped of everything... all of a sudden she was experiencing a feeling that she had never felt before, and it scared her. And so, twenty years later than most women, Evelyn Couch was angry... In her fantasies, she began to look like herself but with the strength of ten men. She became a superwoman. And in her mind, she beat that bad mouthed boy over and over again, until he lay in the parking lot, broken and bleeding, begging for Feminist Awareness and Narrative Change 79 mercy. Ha!
Few people who saw this plump, pleasant-looking middle-aged, middle-class housewife out shopping or doing other menial everyday chores could guess that, in her imagination, she was machine-gunning the genitals of rapers and stomping abusive husbands to death in her specially designed wife-beater boots... (Fannie Flagg, 1987: 237-238.) The fantasies of Evelyn, exhibiting anger and vengeance, are the kind of experiences projected in feminist writings that have been made possible by
the feminist revolution. As predicted, the heroines of recent women's writings are much clearer about their anger than are their female predecessors:
they recognize the source of their abuse, and they exercise retaliation and self-defense. Whereas in the literary writings of men, most criminal women are portrayed as the "ruined maids" (a la Thomas Hardy) or the "fallen women"-"the Charlotte Temples and Hester Prynnes and Catherine Barkleys" (to cite Adler, 1975: 17), who are punished for trespassing the law and are never heroines to emulate like criminal male heroes,9 criminal women of feminist female writers retaliate and even kill in self-defense and they always profit from it. Their greatest gratification is regaining a sense of self and self-esteem.
Consider, for instance, "How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy," by the African-American author Alice Walker (1971:21-26).This is a story about growing up, maturing and gaining control. Walker's heroine starts out at the lowest level, being a young, black woman and the daughter of a maid. Her opponent, on the other hand, is a white grown-up male-a professional in the legal system in whose house her mother serves as a maid. All these factors-race, gender, age, social class, and profession (which also determine economical and political stratification)-serve to weaken the heroine's initial status. But by the end of the story the wheel has turned full circle: the heroine sits on the bed of her molesting boss whom she has killed, and eats food his wife has cooked.
The Collector of Treasures, by the South African author Bessie Head (1977),is another example in which the heroine kills her husband who deserted her years before, but has returned to abuse her again. In "Baby Blue," by Edna O'Brien (1978:17-34),the possible suicide of the man results from the woman's verbal punishment. The French film ]eanne Dielman by Chantal Akerman (1979)portrays a mother and a housewife who lives on prostitution, and who, in her anger, kills her client. In Cry, the Peacock, by the Indian writer Anita Desai (1980), the female character kills her husband, who is inattentive and indifferent to her needs. In the Dutch film A Question of Silence, by Marleen Gorris (1982),four women, acting out their accumulated anger with men, kill a male shop-owner just because he is a man.
In the teleplay by Rose Leiman Goldemberg (1984),The Burning Bed, which 80 Rachel Giora was based on the book by Faith McNulty, the abused woman finally sets her husband on fire, thereby terminating his battering and rapes. In Ellen Gilchrist's (1986: 146-158)"My Last Diet," the heroine is suicidal: she is dieting to death. However, her final act is lethal. She runs her Toyota sedan into a doughnut shop, killing a waitress, an overweight professor, and herself. Though the act is not intentional, this is a clear protest story about the pressure on women to keep fatally slim. In Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (1987), a female character kills the abusive husband of a female relative. In the films Blue Steel (Katherine Bigelow, 1990), and Thelma and Louis (Ridley Seott, 1991, screenplay by Callie Khouri), the heroines retaliate and kill abusive males.
"Un crime maternel," by Fay Weldon (1991),protests the tyrannical notion of motherhood by exposing its absurdity. It presents a mother who takes motherhood seriously, and acts by the book (of patriarchy), which includes the expectation that mothers should consider only their children's well-being. Thus, all her actions become derivative, even to killing the father who has gone astray. In "The Revenge," by the Singaporean author Catherine Urn (1993: 109-114), the heroines retaliate by mutilating the abuser's penis. In "The Golden Snake," by the Palestinian author Hanan Michaili Ashrawee (1990), the heroine is doing away with her marital bonds while at the same time trying to revolt against the Israeli occupation.
The stone which she uses to destroy her marriage bracelet and free herself from her male oppressor is also turned against the Israeli soldier. The heroine of Women at Point Zero a novel by Egyptian author Nawal AlSa'adawi's (1975), kills her abuser. The trial allows the author to protest the injustices done to women in the Arab world. The heroine of another of her novels, The Fall of the Imaam (1988), also avenges the rape and abuse.• of her mother and other women by the Imaam [the religious ruler].
It is no wonder, then, that the life and paintings of the artist Artemisia Gentleschi are attracting the attention of contemporary audiences. A film entitled Artemisia, written, produced, and directed by Adrienne Clarkson (1992), was recently released by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It tells of Artemisia Gentleschi's artistic excellence, and of her rape and humiliation by another male artist working with her father. The film is based on the actual rape trial transcripts of 1610, on Gentleschi's letters, and on her paintings. It portrays the courageous transformation of her trauma into artistic creation, culminating in her painting of the murder of Holofemes by Judith (Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes).
Unlike male artists' paintings on the topic-whose Judiths are frail and gentle, exhibiting only the product of the act of murder-Gentleschi's work shows the enactment of murder. It presents a determined, powerfully muscular woman cutting off Holofemes head with his own knife.
The view presented here, that recent works by feminist authors portray Feminist Awareness and Narrative Change 81 more retaliating female characters than earlier works did, is similar to that of Clover (1992).Clover notes that it was only in the early 1970s that the theme of "getting even" became a mainstream topic in American movies about women. Abuse, particularly rape, became "not only a deed deserving of brutal retribution, but a deed that women themselves (not cops, boyfriends, or fathers) undertook to redress" (p. 16).
The early and recent feminist authors reviewed here portray two different female characters. It is interesting to consider this difference in terms of recent studies by Ariel and Giora (1992a,b,Forthcoming), who propose to define femininity as adopting the woman's point of view, and masculinity as adopting the man's point of view. Adopting a self (e.g., feminine, masculine, Palestinian, etc.) point of view involves identifying with the point of view of one's own group; i.e., attributing positive values to the objectives, attitudes, social status, etc., of one's own group. Ariel and Giora's analyses •.
of the writings of early and more recent Israeli female and male writers reveal that, overall, nonfeminist women writers employ a convergence strategy (Giles, 1984): they adopt the masculine view of women, representing female characters in a manner very similar to that of male writers. Feminist writers, however, identify with women's objectives, and depict different kinds of female characters.
Along these lines, works by the earlier women writers in this study can be taken to emulate men's writings in that they introduce oppressed heroines, such as those who were prevalent in men's writings (e.g., Flaubert's suicidal heroine (1955) in Madame Bovary, or Tolstoi's (1951) Anna Karenina). The more recent feminist writings employ a divergence strategy (see Giles, 1984), portraying different heroines and creating a different narrative. In the opinion of Ariel and Giora(1992a), then, the early feminist authors examined here can be viewed as producing a rather masculine narrative. In contrast, the more recent feminist authors reviewed here, may be viewed as inducing a change toward a more feminine narrative that adopts the woman's perspective. Of the two options available, either to destroy oneself (or let oneself be destroyed) or inflict destruction on one's abuser, the latter seems to better reflect one's best interest, since it offers one the possibility of survival.
A COUNTER EXAMPLE-The Writings of Israeli Women
The literature written in Israel provides a counter example to the hypothesis tested here. Since the early writings of the 1930s to the present, heroines in Israeli women's writings respond to abuse almost exclusively by committing acts of self-destruction, rather than by directing their anger against the male abuser. The feminist revolution, which seems to have affected the writings of Western and many non-Western women, has not yet induced critical feminist awareness among Israeli women, and thus there is 82 Rachel Giora no narrative change among Israeli female authors.1° In "Mah she'Haya" [What It Was] (1939), by Dvorah Baron (195n Mina, the heroine, is the victim of her mother-the representative of patriarchy-who valu'es her daughter only in terms of her external beauty.
The daughter protests her mother's abusive attitude by ruining her own face with a knife (see also Rattok, 1994: 285-286). In her "Kritut" [Divorce], Baron (1943:55-66)protests the injustice done to women through marriage, portraying a woman who is dying slowly of agony, having been divorced by her husband because of her inability to bear him children; and in her" Aleh Nidaf" [A Frail Leaf] (1951),a young maid who has fallen in love with her beguiling landlord, commits suicide when she finds out he is going to marry someone else.
Similarly, Amalya Kahana-Carmon's writings-e.g., Bi'Chfifa Aehat [Under One Roof] (1966) and Ve'Yareaeh be'Emek Ayalon [And a Moon in the Valley of Ayalon] (1971)-protest the oppressive effects of marriage on women. For example, the heroine of Ve'Yareaeh..., who has tried to do away with the shackles of marriage, attempts suicide when she fails.
Rattok (1994: 279) comments that Kahana-Carmon's writings abound in cemetery and jail metaphors, which allude to the mental death of women captivated in a patriarchal structure.
In many of Ruth Almog's stories, the female characters are either ill or insane, their frailty being a result of inflicting their anger upon themselves rather than upon their oppressors. In "Martha Tamati ad Netsah" [Martha, My Eternally Chaste]' for instance, the heroine is the victim of her father's oppressive control (1986: 69-82). Instead of revolting against his legacy, or against her deceitful husband and scornful son, she develops an illness and becomes entirely powerless, almost insane.