Cinderella As A Paragon English Literature Essay
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R. P. Utter and G. B. Needham, who claims “every heroine in fiction “is” a daughter of Pamela” (1), comment on the origin of Pamela’s narrative scheme: “if Richardson know all the folk literature of the world, and had deliberately searched it, he could hardly chose a more popular theme. It is the fairy tale of the type we name for its best known heroine, Cinderella (329). J. M. S. Tompkins also remarks about how the potboiling narratives of the late eighteenth century learned from Richardson “to dress up the old theme of Cinderella, Virtue Persecuted” (34). Indeed, “Cinderella” is one of the most convenient tags to categorize a heroine and her story. Michael adelstein (28) and Kristina Straub (43,154, 164) attach it to the plot elements in Frances Burmey’s writing; Annis Pratt applies it to Mrs. Smith’s novels (26-27; Tony Tanner (10) and D.W. Harding (“Introduction to Persuasion” 24; “Regulated Hatred” 73)connect it with Austen’s protagonists; Karen Rowe (” “”Fairy-born””” 72), Richard Chase (469), and Gilbert and Gubar (342) refer to this widely circulated term in discussing Jane Eyre. And Mary Stratton groups together several famous heroines-from Pamela to Fanny Price-and labels them all “bourgeois Cinderellas” (351). Unlike these casual references, which presuppose the reader’s familiarity with the fairy tale and give no further definition of the term “Cinderella,” the present study take the Cinderella pattern seriously, both as a favorite narrative paradigm in the English novel, and as an illuminating interpretative key. Such a critical enterprise demands a closer examination of the fairy tale itself.
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In the present studies the term “Cinderella” refers specifically to the tale retold by Perrault, who gave the story the form in which it is known throughout the world today. Perrault’s story belongs to what Jack Zipes calls “the literary fairy tales,” which, as he emphasizes, came into being with the emerging bourgeois society and were in many ways fundamentally different from ” the folktale,” which was rooted in the precapitalistic lower-class culture (Fairy Tales 6 – 11). There are several things about Perrault’s revisioning that are worth consideration. The first is that he Christianized the tale. in the Brothers Grimm’s-there are more violent elements and the heroine is by far less submissive than Perrault’s Cinderella (Opie and Opie 118; Bettelheim 251). Perrault’s heroine, degraded to do “the meanest work,” to dress in “poor clothes” and stay in ashes, not only “bore all patiently” (123) without any visible resentment, but “offered herself” to help her spoiled stepsisters prepare for the grand ball Toward the end of the story, when she is identified as the “beautiful lady” sought by the prince, she still takes no opportunity to avenge her wrongs, but embraces her discomfited sisters and tells them that she forgives them with all her heart. This does not mean, as Bruno Bettelheim assumes, that. it does not make all that much difference whether one is vile or virtuous”(252). On the contrary, by enduring injustice patiently and returning ill – usage with love and benevolence, this Cinderella transforms her passive innocence and suffering into a saving power, which earns her a “happily – ever – after” ending and converts her world from a house of petty cruelty in to a harmonious, merry court. In her unrivaled humbleness, patience, and kindness, she is very much an incarnation of positive Christian virtues. Remarkably, in Perrault’s tale, the Christian godmother replaced all the pantheist helpers-trees, fish, birds, or cows-that we meet in many other versions. Although the actual function of this fairy godmother is not very different from that of a bird or a cow, the change carefully show Cinderella’s life within the Christian world In the “Second Moral” that conclude the tale, Perrault teaches the importance of godmothers. This indicates how self – conscious he is when deciding the identity of the magic helper, no matter whether he is fully serious or half – mocking with that “Moral.
The second point I want to mention about Perrault””s “Cinderella” is its puzzling textual ambiguity, which stand out strikingly in spite of the authorial effort to show the text with Christian morality. People often juxtapose Cinderella with Snow White or the Sleeping Beauty without differentiating among these archetypes of the passive and submissive woman. Simone de Beauvoir is rather typical in this respect when she says in The Second Sex that “Woman is the Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, she who receives and submits” (328). This is, however, an inaccurate observation. Perrault””s Cinderella, though apparently more passive than other of her sister cinder girls, does express her will and take the initiative at the crucial points of her life. Notably, it is her crying that calls forth her godmother, whose existence has not been hinted before. She sobs out her inchoate discontent and desire in front of that fairy protector and obtains the needed outfit to go to the ball. Later, when the slipper test is going on in her house, she once again recognizes the opportunity and speaks to royal envoys: “Let me see if it will not fit me” (127). On both occasions Cinderella is active, rather than passive, and forges her own lot. Her behavior after her first sensational appearance at the ball is even more perplexing. Having managed to get home before her stepsisters, she goes to the door to meet them, “gaping, rubbing her eyes, and stretching herself,” and chatters with them about the mysterious lady at the ball: “She must then be very handsome indeed; Lord how happy have you been, could not I see her? Ah! Good Madam Charlotte, lend me your yellow suit of clothes that you wear every day” (126). Even allowing for her justifiable wish to keep the secret and avoid probable harm, there is absolutely no need for such inventive and self pleased improvising. At this moment she looks more like a born actress and an experienced schemer than a submissive heroine. This difference from the Sleeping Beauty, who essentially does nothing except sleep and dream, is important and points to the central paradox of the tale: on the one hand, the heroine is praised for her humility, her patience and self-effacement; yet on the other hand, all the vivid details hint at a longing and plotting girl, one who is the necessary underside of the Christianized heroine. With her partly suppressed and partly suggested wishes (as conveyed by the broken sentence “I wish I could) coming true in the end, that aspiring girl is ultimately affirmed and supported by the narrative structure. We shall see in the subsequent discussions how this ambiguous pattern lends itself readily to the novelistic imagination, and how women novelists, with special eagerness and anxiety, respond to this structuring paradox of the Cinderella theme.
There are some interesting feminist interpretations that are equally biased. In The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar view the tale of “Snow White” as an archetypal pattern in women’s writing. In their opinion, Snow White is the patriarchy’s angelic daughter” (39) who constitutes only the ” surface story,” and the wicked queen is the rebellious, angry woman, the active plot maker and the artist who carries the dynamic narrative energy (3 – 44, 146 – 186). Perceptive as many of their ideas are, Gilbert and Gubar have sometimes projected too much of their interpretive intention onto the text, owing to their eagerness to redress the age-old andocentric bias in literary study as well as in social life. Typically, they read the huntsman who refuses to kill Snow White as “a surrogate for the King, a parental-or, more specifically, patriarchal-figure” (39). Such a reading, though valid in its own way, should not overshadow other interpretive possibilities. Fox example, the queen, in spite of her gender, can be seen as the “parental-or more specifically, patriarchal-figure,” whereas the huntsman, as a servant, is consequently more sympathetic with the persecuted girl. For the young, the powerless, and the deprived, the wicked stepmother might be just the personification of oppressive authority. Though the wicked mother in a way releases a self-assertive urge, she does so chiefly by means of her position as the representative of parental authority. Perhaps this is more accurate for “Cinderella,” in which the mother figure is less individualized and psychologized than in “Snow White. Although Gilbert and Gubar’s view of “Snow White” is very refreshing, it is sometimes far-fetched when applied as a universal pattern to literary works by women. After all, in classic English novels, it is the virtuous young daughter, not the evil stepmother, who occupies the spotlight. My suggestion is that the thriving tribe of apparently virtuous girls is to a larger degree patterned on Cinderella, who is much more active and complex than our cursory first impression shows. We do not have to read every wicked mother figure, such as Mrs. Norris, into an anti patriarchal subverted to discover a fermenting female consciousness and dynamic textual intricacies.
Richardson’s Pamela is fully aware that she is gloriously transformed as soon as she has traded her humble name “Andrews” for the more consequential “Mrs. B. ” In her own words, she used to be a “poor creature” (25,29, 69). Later she begins to talk about “the dignity” her husband has “raised” her to (424): “times… are much altered with me,” says this newly-made lady to a servant of her insolent sister-in-law, “and I have been of late so much honored with better company, that I can’t stoop to yours”(414). The miraculous metamorphosis is enacted, as in Cinderella’s case, by marrying into a higher social class. With this young servant girl, Richardson successfully recasts the age-old tale into a popular bourgeois myth, whose tenor is that a helpless girl, being “honest, even poor” (17),may eventually win love, respect, money, and everything desirable by dint of her moral superiority. The similarities between the two narratives are striking enough for people to name Pamela’s story after her better known forerunner-Cinderella. Two features about the new Cinderella myth are decidedly bourgeois. One is that for a woman, perfect worldly glory and happiness no longer are attained by joining the royal family; rather, she has far more “realistic” goals-becoming a lady and gaining admission to the social club named “gentility. Secondly, the lady-to-be is distinguished mainly by her unwavering virtue and her impeccably proper behavior. If Christianized moral goodness is implied in Perrault’s tale, in Richardson it is overtly and tirelessly stressed. As the finally “reformed” Mr. B confesses: “they were the beauties of her mind, that made me her husband” (427). In Pamela, the apparent simplicity and naturalness of the fairy tale has disappeared, while its ambiguity is being acutely grasped and developed as a structuring stylistic and thematic dialectic. Distinct and conflictive discourses are ushered in, partly because of the author’s didactic purpose. The cinder girl is merged with the Christian hero; the lover initially takes the voice of a Restoration rake, when it was transformed into a novel, the Cinderella theme, enriched and complicated, grew into “a phenomenon multiform in style and vary form in speech and voice” (Bakhtin 261). Both Pamela and Mr. B look at their lives in the light of existing literary plots. At a sensitive point in the evolution of their relationship, Mr. B demands from Pamela her journal letters: “There is such a pretty air of romance, as you relate them, in your plots and my plots” (242). For Mr. B, the upper-class libertine, this verbal/sexual wrestling is one of the few favorite “sports” in which he can exert his wisdom and energy, and possession of a pretty virgin will certainly increase his credit and glory  But “a good fame and a chastity inviolate” are Pamela’s “best Jewels” (198-201), her passport to respect and final salvation.
Though Mr. B is not allowed equal chance in writing out his own story-as Lovelace gets in Clarissa-still he can be heard through Pamela’s diligent recording. I will quote here as an example, one of their numerous exchanges of words; it occurs early in the novel when Mr. B has just made clear his “ignominious” intention:
if you could be so afraid of your own servants knowing of your attempts upon a poor unworthy creature, that is under your protection while I stay, surely your honor ought to be more afraid of God Almighty, in whose presence we all stand, in every action of our lives, and to whom the greatest, as well as the least, must be accountable, let them think what they list. He took my hand, in a kind of good-humored mockery, and said Well urged, my pretty preacher! When my Lincolnshire chaplain dies, I’ll put thee on a gown and cassock, and thou”” It make a good figure in his place. -I wish, said I, a little vexed at his jeer, your honor’s conscience would be your preacher, and then you would need no other chaplain. Well, well, Pamela, said he, no more of this unfashionable jargon… .Well, said he, you are an ungrateful baggage; but I am thinking it would be pity, with these fair soft hands, and that lovely skin… that you should return again to hard work, as you must if you go to your father’s; and so I would advise her [Mrs. Jervis] to take a house in London and let lodgings to us members of parliament, when we come to town; and such a pretty daughter as you may pass for, will always fill her house, and she’ll get a great deal of money. I was sadly vexed at his barbarous joke; but being ready to cry before, the tear gushed out…. Why you need not take this matter in such high disdain! -You have a very pretty romantic turn for virtue, and all that…. But, my child (sneeringly he spoke it,) do but consider what a fine opportunity you will then have for a tale everyday to good mother Jervis, and what subjects for letter-writing to your father and mother, and what pretty preachments you may hold forth to the young gentlemen. (66-67)
This contrast of their speeches tells much about the two dialogists, and about the novel as a whole. Pamela the speaker/writer is conscientiously creating a desired verbal image for herself as a God-fearing, virtuous “poor maiden” (67). She is constantly aware of her triple listener/reader-the licentious master/lover, the strict father/judge, and the heavenly Father- the threefold patriarchal mastership she has to deal with. As a result, she carefully formulates her every word and sentence. Knowing well her powerless state, she tries to forward her own claims in the name of all kinds of authorities, religious or secular. She never forgets the modifier “dutiful” whenever she signs her name. Neither she will overlook a chance to name “God” in defense of herself. “On God all future good depends,” Pamela once declares in her verses (90). As the source of her courage, the final justification of her action , and her only refuge (107), God is at the core of all her words. By bringing “God Almighty” into the talk, she not only voices her righteous intention to reproach Mr. B, but also signals her subtle hope in persuading and converting the young rake. Another “authority” she frequently appeals to is the medieval code of the chivalrous protection of the “fair sex” and the feudal lord’s responsibility toward his vassal. Not for nothing does she repeatedly describe herself as little, poor, and worthless. Indeed, Pamela respects very much Mr. B’s position as the master and the aristocratic landowner. When expressing her annoyance that a master of his honor’s degree demeans himself to be so free… to such a poor servant as me” (29), she sounds more upset about Mr. B’s breach of the proper manner of an honorable master/protector than about the actual insult to herself.
The other fairy tale motif-the contrast and conflict between the kind godmother and the evil stepmother-is also orchestrated and subsumed into the central Pamela, Mr. B confrontation. The mother like senior servant Mrs. Jervis is a rather ineffective protector and a faint echo of Pamela, but the “wicked” Mrs Jewkes, whose name and social situation bear a striking resemblance to the other older woman, is on the contrary eloquent, active, and powerful. During Mr. B’s absence she not only acts in his interests as a turnkey, a spy, and a bawd, but also speaks on his behalf and carries on the dialogue with Pamela for him She argues with a sound logic and a down-to-earth realism not very different from that of Mr. B the seducer: “Are not the two sexes made for one another7” (111) Or sometimes she coldly sneers at the girl, sounding almost like an ironical wit: “Mightily miserable, indeed, to be so well beloved by one of the finest gentlemen in England” (112). Mrs. Jewkes is ugly and heavy, physically unfeminine looking, and more importantly, “has a hoarse, man like voice” (116, my emphasis). The textual tensions of the novel, however, do not begin or end with Pamela’s contention with Mr. B; they go much deeper than the surface opposition and negotiation between the protagonists Self-perceived as the true Christian hero resisting the Satanic tempter, Pamela forcefully denies in herself any worldly ambition or longing for material fulfillment: “For what indeed is happiness, /But conscience innocence and peace?”(89). through the image of marriage, the two plots-the divine one and the worldly one -are happily welded together. William and Malleville Haller’s study, “The Puritan Art of Love,” shows that even before Milton hailed “wedded love” in Paradise Lost (4.750), the British Puritans already had an energetic literature idealizing and celebrating marriage. Richardson is very much in line with this tradition when he presents the married family as the castle of order, goodness, and harmony. Wedded love, associated with Eden in Christian myth, is envisaged as an earthly paradise. With the transfiguration of marriage into a kind of divine reward, the two plots merge into one. Needless to say, this sacred marriage as a trope is rich and ambiguous. It half-conceals and half-reveals the heroines individualistic desires, since on the one hand the concept is itself freighted with religious connotations, yet on the other hand it inescapable points to the sublunary social, financial, and emotional transactions a marriage actually involves.
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Fielding was quick in recognizing the unspoken “asides” of desire in Pamela. His Shamela is consistently self-seeking:”I thought once of making a little fortune by my Person, I now intend to make a great one by my Vartue (53). His parody is shrewd and entertaining, but not very original. Having deployed in Mr. B a cynical voice against Pamela, Richardson not only anticipates but in a way forestalls such an interpretation. Shamela, the boldfaced and consciously, snaring hypocrite, indicates a deliberate blindness on Fielding’s part to the textual tension between the various voices and inclinations that inhabit Pamela and Pamela. Understandably, the little class-climber Pamela, with her inner complexity, is not to be deflated easily. In spite of Fielding’s burlesque, this middle-class cinder girl lives to be a most successful heroine, and the fact that she has so many literary progeny proves her vitality. With its structuring image of “war,” with its curious and continuous dialogue between the apparently self-effacing protagonist and the wish-ful-filling narrative design, and between the prevailing moralistic discourse of modesty and the individualistic desire that propels it, Richardson’s text establishes the paradigm in the English novel for the later flourishing Cinderella theme. This kind of doubleness, self generating, multileveled and multidimensional-the double plot, double debate, and doubly oriented language-forms a dynamic “internal dialogism” (Bakhtin 279), and pulses the narrative onward. Here we are not chiefly concerned with the universal dialogic nature of all novelistic language, though I basically agree with Bakhtin on that point. What I want to highlight is the importance of the textual dialectics within the Pamela/Cinderella pattern, which enable and energize a powerful female novelistic tradition. The thematic and stylistic tension and contention we have noted in Pamela are neither isolated nor fortuitous. Lovelace once compares his private “warfare” with Clarissa-which is, he says, far, far from an amorous warfare” -to the most far-reaching civil war in English history: “if I must be forsworn whether I answer her expectations or follow my own inclinations (as Cromwell said, if it must be my head, or the king’s)â€¦ can I hesitate a moment which to choose?” (401-402).The connection is made, though it is somewhat blurred by Lovelace’s playfulness and hyperbole. With Richardson, the issues of writing are always intricately entangled with issues outside the text-the problems of gender, manners, morality, and class struggle. When Mr. B first makes his sexual advance toward Pamela, he speaks at the same time of making “a pretty story in Romance”(26). In the farcical scene of his attempted rape, Pamela gives Mrs. Jewkes a formal account of her “history in brief” (211), which half disarms the listening Mr. B even before her timely fainting fully frustrates him. Mr. B threatens to strip the girl to get her “papers” (245). And, significantly, his final transformation from an evil seducer into a Prince Charming is triggered, as it is described, by Pamela’s writings (248-253). In Richardson’s world there is an amazing slippage between the “word” and the empirical life. The paragons guard their writings as vigilantly as their persons, and the profligates who aim at sexual conquest take as much pain to steal, intercept, or read their “words. ” It is not the fairies, but the right “words” that have the magic power to transform “life” dynamically. When Pamela, expressing her unwillingness to surrender some of her journals, says, “all they contain, you know as well as I,” Mr. B answers: “But I don’t know the light you put things in” (250-251, my emphasis). What happens next is that the gentleman is overwhelmed by her “light,” and reforms into a decent lover.
The fascination with the Cinderella type occurred at the point in time when the “woman problem” had become one of the foremost topics in private and public discussions. From Defoe’s ambivalent presentation of the aggressive and unscrupulous Moll and Roxana, or from the self-indulgent amorous heroines populating the semipornographic novels of Mrs. Manley and Eliza Haywood, it may be inferred that there was by then a kind of widespread moral dizziness over the norm of female behavior. In that age of adventure and new possibilities, industrialization and colonization, had fundamentally corroded the old hierarchy and old morality. As middle-class women were phased out of the economic fields, they found themselves thrown into a dazzling yet precarious leisure by the unprecedented wealth created by increasingly specialized means of production. A large quantity of conduct books were eagerly produced and consumed in eighteenth-century England. They are at once a remedy for, and a sure indication of, the existing moral anarchy. All the best pens of England spared no time or energy on this problem: female behavior was no trifling matter for the new bourgeois order. “The Chastity of Women,” said Dr. Johnson, very candid about the patriarchal nature of the shaping female code, is “of the utmost importance, as all the property depends upon it” (Boswell 2: 457). By the time Pamela came into being, the ideal image of the new ladylike woman had nearly crystallized. Talking of her unfitness for poor, rural life, Pamela gives a detailed list of her “accomplishments” in singing, dancing, drawing, etc., which, according to Utter and Needham,” covers exactly the items of a lady’s education at the time” (10). These skills, together with her unswerving virtue, delicate physique, and maudlin sensibility, are hallmarks of a true lady. Woman was as much a circulating “signifier” in the transactions among men as she had been for the Restoration rakes, though she was inserted into the scenario of a different social drama. By this I mean not just to reassert, as many feminist critics have already eloquently demonstrated,the patriarchal bias of the Cinderella dream, but to call attention to the fact that on the ideological spectrum, the dream to a considerable degree overlaps with more overtly male-concerned and male-centered conceptions like “gentleman. ” The lady is the gentlewoman, just as Cinderella has her more realistic male counterpart in the legendary hard-working apprentice who eventually marries his master’s daughter and comes into the ownership of the business. They are the complementary facets of the same cultural myth, and therefore in many ways share the same kind of inner dichotomy and dialectics.
This dichotomy between self-denial and self-fulfillment, in various forms and expressions, underlies most English bourgeois moral ideals When I say that Pamela has reshaped “Cinderella” into a modem myth, I mean not only that Pamela, as the finally victorious cinder girl, is naturally the embodiment of the social ambitions of the middle class would be ladies, but more emphatically that the novel ingeniously grafts the central dialectics of Protestant individualism onto the structural ambiguity of the original tale. Thus we come to a basic assumption of the present study-the fundamentally dialectic nature of Puritan ethics and of ideology in general. On this point I differ from Bakhtin considerably. Bakhtin, though stressing the “inner dialogism” of all words and languages in a general way, claims that authoritative discourse” is by its very nature incapable of being double voiced; it cannot enter into hybrid constructions” (344).  As I perceive it, ideology, being a class consciousness, is necessarily polemic and posed against other ideologies; and, as a living and effectively functioning language system, it must constantly receive feedback and be under continuous construction. Even the ideology of the ruling group, that is, “the authoritative discourse” in the.social and cultural spheres, can only strive to unify and monopolize language; but it can never achieve this end, else it would wipe itself out. The energetic efforts to censor words, as Richardson did with his own text, testify to, instead of clear away, the recognized heteroglot quality of the discourse. “Ideology always contains contradictions,” Mary Poovey argues, precisely because it explains or naturalizes”” the discrepancies that inevitably characterize lived experience”(xiv).
All social strata and/or classes build their ideological apparatus with inherited linguistic materials; therefore, in a sense all the words and concepts adopted by the “new” system are inevitably “kidnapped” and “violated. There is, then, an ongoing friction and negotiation between the inert and more crystallized linguistic form and the new emphasis and new intention imposed on it. Such a self-conflicting system is the whole set of Puritan ideas about sin, virtue, and salvation, with all the semantic sediment accumulated since Old Testament time. So are the conceptions of the “lady” and “gentleman. ” Drawing on both their medieval roots and the new middle-class moral concern, the signifying process of these terms is a kind of oscillation between different poles, or perhaps more accurately, a dancing around through various aspects and layers of the “signified. ” This ambiguity is self-consciously exploited by the middle-class people who cash in on their moral goodness. When Elizabeth Bennet says: “He [Darcy] is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter, so far we are equal” (Pride and Prejudice, 366), she is carefully playing on both the social and moral implications of the term “gentleman.” Neither will it need extraordinary acumen to realize how Puritanism is intercepted and permeated by other ideas, say, the Bent Amite rational affirmation of the pursuit of personal happiness, or the Lockean empirical emphasis on subjective sensations. The Cinderella tale as an equivocal and promising narrative pattern provides an ideal meeting ground where different modes of philosophical and ideological thinking can confront, negotiate, and merge with each other. Pamela’s ready tears and Emmeline’s cool calculations indicate more than their personal idiosyncrasies. These Lady-Cinderellas are ideological compounds and register the intrinsic compatibility as well as the contradictions of these value systems.
As a result, the Cinderella myth has functioned as a double-edged (or multiage) ideological weapon. On the one hand, the code of propriety is carefully woven into a myth that romanticizes woman’s subordinate and domesticated role within the patriarchy; on the other hand, the Protestant individualism that is simultaneously programmed into the plot inevitably arouses in women (and underprivileged people in general) a sense of individual dignity and an urge for self-realization. We hear Clarissa insist on her “freedom,” which is her “birthright as an English Subject” (934). We also witness how those proper ladies, fictional Pamela’s or “real” Frances Burney’s, exhibit a profound interest in themselve and a remarkable faith in the meaningfulness of their private lives. Such self-consciousness, once it begins to ferment, can hardly be safely imprisoned in the narrow space of a bourgeois marriage. Even Pamela, the model wife, sometimes sounds dangerous. When her husband gives her a long list of rules to follow and specifically demands her obedience to his unreasonable orders, she says to herself,” this would bear a smart debate, I fancy, in a Parliament of Women”(477). A Parliament of Women! Truly, there is no saying what can get into women’s minds once they are set to thinking and fancying by Richardson Ian ideologues. It is not surprising that they would push the principles they have been taught one step further, as Mary Wollstonecraft does from the Right of Man to the Right of Woman. In this sense the Cinderella myth is self-defeating as far as its patriarchal purpose is concerned. The kind of individualism it conveys is too energetic and aggressive to be contained by the ideological closure in which the happy marriage symbolizes a reestablished patriarchal order.
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