Reproductions of Madwoman in the Attic

Throughout the early times of literature, women have been the victims of unreasonable classification. Women were always seen as weak being who had to succumb to their gender opposite, man. Due to the views of the hegemonic society, women were always seen as inferior to the male population. Given that the majority of society sees women as substandard to men, the rest of society then began to view them as such. However, with education on this particular subject, society can change its bias views against women. Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert’s The Madwoman in the Attic is an appropriate text to examine society’s injustices towards females. The text concentrates on the examination of literature. Gubar and Gilbert’s text is an influential study of nineteenth century British women writers such as Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Shelly. The work analyses how women authors of the nineteenth century were constrained on writing literature that views women as “the extreme images of angel or monsters” (812). Eighteenth century novels, Moll Flanders and Pamela or Virtue Rewarded are both representations of this ideal. Authors Gilbert and Gubar, however, disagree with the notion of women being depicted as either angel or monster, claiming that neither could accurately define a woman. Thus, with the novels like Moll Flanders and Pamela readers can distinguish the reflections and ideals of The Madwoman in the Attic.
The Madwoman in the Attic, which was published in 1979, is a significant novel for the feminism culture. The novel addresses the confines women authors are forced to stay in when writing about female characters. Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert’s text argues against society’s normalcy of subjugating female writers. When this course of action started to be received by society, it became difficult for female authors to write outside their normal conventions. The difficulty of writing outside normal conventions rooted back from male writers’ tendencies to classify female characters as either pure angelic women or unruly madwomen. Male writers had a big influence on the way the hegemonic society viewed different facets of life. Male authors had strong tendencies to stereotype their female protagonist into either one of these roles. Two novels that produced this very stereotype are Moll Flanders and Pamela.
Even though the novels came out in the eighteenth century, Daniel Dafoe’s Moll Flanders and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Virtue Rewarded convey the very two categories that women were confined to. Dafoe and Richardson are both guilty of portraying their female protagonist as either angelic or sinful. These male authors and many authors of the eighteenth and nineteenth century are the reasons for women having difficulty defining themselves as an individual. They were labeled as either two things, leaving little space to identify oneself as their own person or woman. Women authors were especially affected by the male authors’ categorization of the female population. Women authors had absolutely no space to venture into new ideas or characters. They were forced into dealing their female heroines into the roles of either the saintly female as in the charter in Pamela or the impious protagonist as in Moll Flanders. However, we must first analyze when these injustices towards the female population started to first occur.
The eighteenth century, also known as the time of the industrial Revolution, saw women take on more and more jobs that were commonly occupied by men. Women began to work laborious jobs to support themselves and their own families economically. However, despite this valiant effort, women were now being seen as inferior in the work place. Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first women writers to come out the eighteenth century, played an important role towards the feminist movement. In her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft addresses the discrimination women face in society. She goes on to explain the reason for such injustices: “a corrupt process of socialization which stunts their intellect and teaches them that their purpose in life is to serve men” (112). Women were subjugated to an education that taught them how to become better housewives. While men were taught subjects like philosophy, science, and mathematics, women were taught how to knit.
During the eighteenth century, women were not allowed to study the teachings of philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. They were not allowed to learn mathematical methods or science techniques. According to Barbara Kanner, author of The Women of England, these subjects then, were closed to women. Women instead were “…offered training in various skills that contribute to the moral development and the display quality of a wife” (Kanner 120). While women learned subjects such as music, drawing and painting, men were educated on new sciences and philosophies. Due to the fact that men were being educated for higher positions, most women were succumbing to either depend on their husbands or work laborious jobs. Since women were stuck learning subjects that would only allow them to become better housewives, a lot of a females surrendered their wills to becoming something more rewarding. The characters of Moll Flanders and Pamela Andrews both fall under the norm for women during this period. They both followed societies norms for females during the Industrial Revolution. Although these characters are faced with the same predicament, they will handle them differently.
The women of the family now found themselves in the work force that was dominated by men. In addition, eighteenth century novelists Daniel Dafoe and Samuel Richardson became the century’s most definitive authors. Their novels, Moll Flanders and Pamela or Virtue Rewarded, respectively are a loose depiction of an Eighteenth century woman during such a pivotal time in history. Both novels concentrate on a woman protagonist with similar backgrounds, but have different ethical and moral values. Each character from the novels fall under the category that women were commonly placed: good or bad.
Daniel Dafoe’s novel, Moll Flanders, centers on the life of protagonist Moll Flanders. Born the daughter of a convict, she was forced to fend for herself since her adolescence. At an early age, she had to support herself by any means necessary. To stay alive, the main character cheated other people and stole copiously. Moll will follow this survival tactic her whole life. In accordance to the angel and madwomen concept, this character would fall under the category of madwomen. Since her mother was transported to America for her crimes, Moll became a household servant. It is there where she would encounter her first and second love interests, a pair of brothers. The set of brothers offered Moll something she had never experienced, a taste of the high life. Moll, being born in poverty, never had the opportunity of becoming a member of the high social class. Many people of the eighteenth century made money, but it was hard to buy your way into high society. As Roy Porter, author of English Society in the Eighteenth Century, observes “…if anything, the English aristocracy was more of a closed circle in the eighteenth century than at any other time in history” (Porter 57). Therefore, Moll Flanders was attempting to marry herself into high class. At an early age, Moll had to figure out ways to survive, and marrying for economical security was merely a means to an end. However, many would find her actions as not as a tactful way of surviving, but as a deceitful approach to the higher class. The heroine decided to value self-sacrifice and rely herself on men for her survival. The Moll Flanders character reflects the perception of her surroundings having an effect of the construction of her personality. Her actions were all a response to how society treated her. “Through the narrative tension between community and protagonist, readers may begin to construct an alternative model of madness as socially produced and as performing a particular social function, for those who surround the “madwomen” can be seen to be ideologically bound subjects mutually engaged in the construction of gender” (Santangelo 122). Therefore, those who were around the main character were responsible for the development of her character. She was simply responding to the category that she was placed in by the dominant society. In this novel by Daniel Dafoe, the protagonist had to literally lie, cheat and steal through life. Unlike Pamela in Virtue Rewarded, Moll was unable to fall back on her family for moral support because she had none.
Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Virtue Rewarded depicts a similar character to that of Dafoe’s. The heroine, Pamela Andrews also comes from an impoverished background. But unlike Moll Flanders, Pamela valued her ethical and moral values. Thus, the character of Pamela can be seen by many as the likeness to that of the angel concept. She was determined to keep her purity at a time when women were not seen as important. During this period, a woman’s ideas were deemed as insignificant. They were used primarily for their bodies, instead of their minds. A woman’s body was used in either two forms: for sexual pleasure or physical labor. Women in the eighteenth century began to function as laborers within the family economy at the age of six or seven. Women in these times were expected to do the same tasks as men. However, women’s labor was considerably less valuable and “…women almost always left home between the ages of eleven and fourteen to either work on another farm or become a servant in a household” (Kanner 124). This was the exact case for Richardson’s heroin, Pamela. She had to leave her parents’ home to work as a servant for Mrs. B.
As a household servant, Pamela had to take orders from Mr. B, Mrs. B’s younger son; all while enduring his strong passes towards her. Instead of falling under the same temptations that Moll Flanders did, Pamela remained abstinent and denied Mr. B numerous times. Rather than depending on a male figure, she depended on her own strength and will. It was difficult for Pamela at times because there were always easy ways for women to earn money. As Ray Porter points out in his informative book about the eighteenth century society: “women could always earn a living by selling themselves” (Porter 70). Women were expected to earn an income, but how could they? Women, during this period were being neglected from a real education. As a result, women sold themselves for money, just like Moll Flanders. On the other hand, Pamela, being the pleasant woman figure discussed by Gilbert and Gubar, kept her values and standards. She decided to choose her purity over money and was rewarded for her virtuosity. Therefore, Pamela choosing to keep her innocence until she married became the most important aspect that separated her from Moll Flanders.
Even though Pamela Andrews decided to hold off on sexual intercourse until she was married she still had to depend on a male character. At the end of the novel, Pamela is rewarded for abstaining from sex by marrying a man that would ultimately support her economically. Despite the good character that author, Samuel Richardson depicts in his novel, the main character still has to rely on the opposite sex. Once again the reader sees the concepts that are presented to us by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. The authors are commented in saying: “…from the eighteenth century on, conduct books for ladies had proliferated, enjoining young girls to submissiveness, modesty, selflessness, reminding all women that they should be angelic.” The character of Pamela may have not submitted to Mr. B’s advances in the beginning of the novel, but in the end she ended up with him. In the start of the novel, Mr. B treats Pamela as his own possession. At the end of the story as both Mr. B and Pamela are talking about their future together, the protagonist is now being submissive to his requests. Now that she is his wife she owes him everything. This novel is another example of the proliferated literature that Gilbert and Gubar speak of. The novel gives the woman reader the suggestion that if they remain pure and virtuous like that of the character of Pamela, one day they will marry someone that can support them financially.
Both novels Moll Flanders and Pamela or Virtue Rewarded are the reflections of the eighteenth century mindset. Women at that particular period were deemed as inferior and not worthy enough for a real education. Since a lot of male authors viewed and portrayed women as only consisting of two types of personalities, society also began to do the same. Women were viewed as beings that should become complacent to the needs of man. This ideal became popular and therefore accepted by society. Mary Wollstonecraft, a prominent writer for the feminism movement, wrote against the social norms that were controlled by the hegemonic society. According to Wollstonecraft “[women] were created to be the toy of man, his rattle…must jingle in his ears whenever” (224). Women were essentially tools for the supposed superior gender, male. Women then were subjugated to less important roles in society where their mental abilities were completely stifled. Instead of viewing Daniel Dafoe and Samuel Richardson’s for what they are: a portrayal of the two categories discussed in The Madwoman in the Attic. They should be viewed as examples one could learn from. The novels are well written that exhibit two strong feminine characters that in their own opinion achieve success and in the end are content with their lives.

Work Cited

Gilbert, Sandra and Gubar, Susan. “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Julie Rivkin and Micael Ryan. 812-825.

Kanner, Barbara. The Women of England: From Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present. Hamden, Connecticut. 1979

Porter, Roy. English Society in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Penguin Group. 1982 and

Santangelo, Marta Caminero. “The Madwomen Can’t Speak: Postwar Cultue and Feminist Criticism” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. Vol. 55, No.1 (Spring 1996)
p123-146. University of Tulsa.

Wollstonecraft Mary. “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” Boston: Peter Edes, 1792.


Ethnic Studies Presentation:

I Johnny Macias, was the man behind the skirt in our presentation. I was trying to represent a physical embodiment of Gloria Anzaldua, one of the two authors covered in our section of Ethnic Studies. Despite Anzaldua being a lesbian, she considered herself a woman. "But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female...the coming together of opposite qualities within"(1020). Dealing with Ethnic studies (that i forgot to mention on Thurs.)is an interesting anecdote that I experienced a while ago. I was listening to the radio and Sublime's "Caress Me Down" came on. See Link Below.

The lead singer breaks into both Spanish and English throughout the song and what I found interesting is that the radio station decided to censor the bad words that were spoken in Spanish. This shows me that Spanish, if not already, is rapidly growing as one of society’s standard language. Anywhoo, the group as a whole came to an agreement on the four corners debate. My group members: Luisa and Theressa put their heads together and came up with the questions used in the game. I felt that our presentation went well, but like Luisa said "it could have been better". I would also like to thank the class for sharing their intellectual thoughts and ideas. Your participation made the presentation go by A LOT easier. ..Thank You! Thank you as well to my fellow group mates for all their hard work on this presentation.


Gilbert&Gubar's leading lady:Miss Elizabeth

Behind a successful man there is a strong woman. We have all heard this adage so many times before. Throughout history there has been a plethora of examples: Jacqueline Kennedy to John F. Kennedy, Rachel Robinson to Jackie Robinson, Coretta Scott King to Martin Luther King Jr., Miss Elizabeth to Randy “The Macho Man” Savage. Many people do not recognize the last pair because it is a reference to the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE. However, Miss Elizabeth was a character that reflects several of the ideas conveyed in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwomen in the Attic.

Elizabeth Anne Hulette, better known to the wrestling world as Miss Elizabeth made her WWF (E) debut in 1985. Her debut was not as a wrestler, a color commentator, but as a wrestling manager. Miss Elizabeth was not a great manager, but she helped Randy Savage become the world heavy weight champion. She was beautiful, graceful and very soft spoken, barely saying a word. She wore elegant clothing to ring and presented herself like a lady. She commonly wore white dresses complemented with white gloves to signify her pleasantness and purity. Her gimmick was that of a quiet, innocent woman. In the eyes of Gilbert and Gubar, Miss Elizabeth was the ideal type of woman they wrote of in their text. Miss Elizabeth was “neither great nor extraordinary… [she had] no story except a sort of antistory of selfless innocence based on the notion that man must be pleased” (814). The act of being selfless and putting a man’s needs first are the “proper acts of a lady” Elizabeth Anne Hulette portrayed as her character.
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwomen in the Attic discusses several women writers of the nineteenth century who were forced to categorize their female characters as either the extreme images of angel or monster. Gilbert and Gubar’s work can still be relevant today. Female characters such as Miss Elizabeth would fall under the angel group. She reflected several ideals the authors discussed in their text. The authors stressed the importance of killing these two images of women because neither can accurately define a woman. And Miss Elizabeth did just that as her career went on: being a mixture of face and heel or good and bad character.

Work Cited
Gilbert, Sandra and Gubar, Susan. “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Literary Theory: An
Anthology. Julie Rivkin and Micael Ryan. 812-825.

Marx and Labor

Karl Marx’s Wage labor and Capital discusses and theorizes the rate that our countries capitalistic system has exploited the working class. Capitalism has been around before our time and even before the time of Karl Marx. Marx’s text is seen as an economical observation as how capitalism works through the labors of the proletariat. In today’s terms workers would not consider themselves proletariat because of its undignified meaning. Instead, they look at themselves as bourgeoisie or those concerned with property values. However, if one contemplates for a good minute we all come from the roots of a proletariat. Our jobs today show similarities to that of a working laborer. We all depend on our jobs for support. Even if our jobs do not pertain to physical labor, we are all laboring somehow. Doctors, teachers, lawyers: labor their brains for money. Singers, musicians and athletes: labor their talents for money. Marx’s critical theory on capitalism is imperative for workers everywhere to comprehend. The sooner this happens, the sooner we can stop the exploitive minds of our nation.
It should come to no one’s surprise that company’s today take advantage of their workers. While the workers are making ends meet making minimum wage, the people in the offices are relishing on the business’ success. According to Marx “workers put more value in to a community or good than they are paid for” (659). The exploitation begins “when [the] goods are sold for more than they cost to make” (659). There are numerous businesses in which this instance occurs. Wal-Mart for example, thrives on this very notion and uses it to monopolize the consumer industry, taking down any store big or small who pose a threat. The company relies on the exploitation of its workers producing the materials they sell. Mick Brooks, author of An Introduction to Marx’s Labor Theory of Value states “The rate of surplus value or rate of exploitation is the amount of time the worker puts in to reproduce the elements of her wages compared with the amount of time the workers devotes to enriching the capitalist class” (Brooks). In his text, Brooks is breaking down the Marx’s theory of capitalism to his readers. Therefore, in simpler terms: the rich get rich off workers unpaid labor and Marx’s theory allows us to see that. We all must remember that even though the capitalism class are the one’s who sign our pay checks, but they would be nothing without their workers. It’s just a matter of time before things turn around. Karl Marx said it himself that capitalism will eventually implode

Work Cited

Marx, Karl. Wage Labor and Capital” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Julie Rivkin and Michel Rivkin. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 659-664.
Brooks, Mick. “An Introduction to Marx’s Labour Theory of Value”. In Defense of
Marxism Oct. 15, 2002. March 18, 2009.


“Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin world go round” is the catchy chorus Freddie Mercury melodiously sang throughout the world with his band Queen. The song is what the title implies: fat bottom girls making the rockin world go round. In the first verse, Mercury claims to have sexual intercourse with his naughty nanny (who had a big fat fanny). He continues the song with lyrics that proclaim his sexual achievements with the women he sees on tour. During the release of this song and the span of Queen’s twenty plus year career, no one realized that Freddy Mercury was actually homosexual. Despite the band’s name having gay connotations, the public was completely oblivious to Mercury being gay. Several of Queen’s songs, in particular this one, sings about the appreciation of the female anatomy. However,due to Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality, this can be seen as an example of Freud’s concept of reaction-formation.
Sigmund Freud’s concept of reaction-formation can be a way to theoretically analyze a person’s inner most desires and emotions. According to Freud, the reaction formation is the blocking of desire by its opposite or the "mechanisms where by the ego reacts to the impulses of the id by creating an antithetical formation that blocks repressed cathexes." Therefore, when Freddie Mercury sang about his sexual adventures with the opposite sex he was covering up his inner most feelings towards the same sex. There were speculations of Freddie’s sexual orientation towards the end of his life, but it was never proven. Until one day, the day before he died, he himself admitted to having AIDS. However, despite his sexual orientation and lifestyle, no one could deny Mercury’s God-given talent to belt out a song in such a harmonious way. Long live Freddie Mercury and the fat bottom girls that make our world go round.


Defamiliarizing Art

This painting is called “All is Vanity” by Charles Allen Gilbert and it depicts a woman looking at herself in the mirror. At a first look it seems to be only that, but as you take a second look you can see an image of a skull. The woman that is immersed with herself in the mirror is part of a micro point of view. The macro point of view is that image as a whole, where the skull is revealed. The painting was drawn in 1892, at the height of self absorption. Gilbert attempts to make a representation of the 19th century woman. When I view this image, I am reminded of William Thackeray’s novel, Vanity Fair, in which Thackeray satirizes England in the 19th century. Both examples look at vanity from a negative perspective. Both men and women were and still are guilty of this deadly sin. The artists’ efforts to warn people about vanity are clear. It may not necessarily be that vanity will literally kill you, but perhaps it kills you from the inside as a person. It becomes so that you are so infatuated with yourself, you forget what is going around you.