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The Definition Of Rebel And Rebellion English Literature Essay

2631 words (11 pages) Essay in English Literature

5/12/16 English Literature Reference this

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In order to have a deeper insight about the reasons that urge women to rebel, we need first to understand the meaning of rebel and rebellion. John Joseph Lalor defines rebellion as “a refusal of obedience or order.” He said “it may encompass a range of behaviors from civil disobedience and mass nonviolent resistance, to violent and organized attempts to destroy an established authority such as the government. Those who participate in rebellions are known as “rebels”. A Rebel is a person who refuses allegiance to, resists, or rises in arms against the government or ruler of his or her country, resists any authority, control, or tradition and who show or feel utter repugnance.” (Lalor, 1884)

This means that rebellion is an act of disobeying, resistance, revolting, fighting against, rejection to submit or to bow to any authorities that the person thinks they are against his/her goal. Therefore, when somebody rebels, his or her rebellion is usually to serve a specific need. For example, it can be fighting against governments’ tyranny to get freedom, declining boss’s unfairness, breaking with conventional customs and rejecting the social traditions and values. A rebel person is the one who rises up and refuses to comply to anything that is forced on him/her and thinks that this counters his/her beliefs or is a threat to his/her humanity. Moreover, the rebellion can take different forms; it can be covert or overt. It can be through writings (poetries, novels, play…etc.) or through other violent ways such as fighting. Therefore, weather they choose a peaceful or violent path their ultimate purpose is anticipation for improvement.

Now let us define feminism and explain the relation of the feminist movement to our main concepts (rebel and rebellion). “Feminism refers to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing greater rights and legal protections for women.” (Cornell, 1998, Humm, 1992 & 1990, Agnes, 2007, & Collins, 2006) this means; feminism is an organization that has political, cultural, and economic purposes. Its primary aim is to create, support, and defend women’s rights. We notice that feminism organization itself is a rebellion since this movement has contained a number of campaigns on various matters such as “reproductive rights” (have the right to access to education, the right to write and publish, the right to work, and the right to “birth control, such as the case of Daisy) (Cook, 1996, Freedman 1993, & Amnesty, 2007), “racism” (the belief that one race is superior to another; black people are inferior to whites, such as the case of Nichols), “domestic violence” (such as abusing the spouse through beating), “equal pay” (the discrimination between men and women’s salary, men receive higher salaries) (Chubb, 2008) “voting rights” (women’s rights to franchise) (Women’s suffrage), and government brutality (the use of legislated powers in torturing people, whether mentally or physically, such as the case of Akhmatova) (Webster, 1999).

At this point, I want to shade some lights on two remarkable feminists who played a significant role in the history of women’s rights. The first one is Simone de Beauvoir. Her astonishing sentence; “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” has a strong impact in the heart of the world. (de Beauvoir, 1977, p. 295) For her, there is no such thing as female nature or woman born to be a female but the reality is the classification is constructed by the society, whereas, the actual distinction between men and women is biological, “yet sensitively, and intellectually” they are the same. De Beauvoir declared in her book The Second Sex, that: “all oppression creates a state of war” (de Beauvoir, 1949, p. 40) this means the continuous aggressive, injustice, tyranny and cruelty treatment produces rebellion. Hence, she prompted women to find a voice and use it to express unique self, to fight for enhancement, to rebel against the social’s negative treatments, and to make their own ethical choices. (Reader, pp. 246-52, Birch & adapted by Davies, pp. 134-7& de Beauvoir, 1949)

The second feminist is Virginia Woolf. Her essay A Room of One’s Own invites the reader to see the actual image of the woman in the Elizabethan age. She said that woman was neglected by historians. Also, in that period woman never writes about her private life and rarely possesses a “dairy”. She was anonymous. Woolf said: “in real life she could hardly read could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.” That means women were prevented from possessing, from education, no liberty, no income to publish their literary work, and they barely had private room. The primary notion of A Room of One’s Own is that every woman requires a private room. In Woolf’s time, women were hardly having a private room. Woolf rebels and uses the room as a symbol for encouraging women to rebel against the unfairness treatments and must ask for all her rights. (Woolf, 1977, p. 43)

Now let us see how rebel and rebellion are shown and expressed by the Caribbean poetess Grace Nichols. It is notable that Nichols’ writing combines two strategies; feminist and postcolonial which places her work in both a “Caribbean and black British” position. Nichols’ poetries investigate the discrimination of race, class and gender. She is writing from her experience of being a black woman in Britain. (Lopez, website) She employs distinct technique to prove her argument. Nichols uses the body as a site of rebellion; in her poem Tropical Death she said “The fat black woman want/ a brilliant tropical death/ not a cold sojourn”; the writer rebels and asks to die in her warm country not in “cold far/forlorn” place. She repeats the same sentence “The fat black woman want” five times as an emphasis of proud of her race and sex. Moreover, Orbach argued that “fat is a symbolic rejection” and rebellion against the restrictions of women’s character. (Escudero, website, Poetry and Drama & Orbach, 1988, p. 36)

Furthermore, Nichols rebels and asks to get all the rights that she didn’t take in all previous nights; “The fat black woman want all her dead rights/ first night/ third night/ nine night/ all the sleepless droning/ red-eyed wake nights.” Her body and voice are symbols of her rebellion, dignity and identity. (Escudero, website) In the Skin-teeth she disguises the body with mask to conceal woman’s rage and hatred under a falsely contented smile and an apparent servility which allows her to act with impunity and rebels suddenly against the planter: “Know that I smile / know that I bend / only the better / to rise and strike/ again” (Poetry and Drama, pp. 176-7).

The last poem is Waterpot. Nichols is using waterpot as an African rebellion symbol that maintains the black woman’s “dignity against the overseer’s sneering”: “she tried hard to walk / like a woman / she tried very hard / pulling herself erect / with every three or four / steps / pulling herself together / holding herself like royal cane / O but look / there’s a Waterpot growing / from her head” (Poetry & Drama, pp. 176-7). Again here the writer uses a woman’s body as a kind of challenging and rebelling against the structures that repress her; the picture of the “cane” is used as an allegory of maleness and the “parasitism of the slave master”, is sarcastically allocated as a symbol of the black woman’s dignity. Also, she walks and tries hard to make her body straight is a kind of repelling and rejecting to bend to exhaustion and embarrassment. (Escudero, website)

The second poetess is Anna Akhmatova. She is one of the greatest Russian writers. Akhmatova’s poetry is the inexpressible suffering that controlled much of her life. Her first husband, Nikolay Gumilyov was executed by Soviet government. Her second husband Nikolai Punin died in “Stalinist gulag”. Her son Lev was also sent to the “gulag” at a very young age. Her poetries have powerful effects on the reader because they are a production of a lived and real experience. Akhmatova is a bear witness of all dreadful and brutality events occurred in Russia. In Requiem 1935- 1940, she shows the incomparable “suffering” of the whole Russian people who were tortured under the “communist yoke” especially under the Stalinist’s regime. Requiem mourns the mourners; mothers lost their sons, wives became widows, or both conditions as with Akhmatova. (Block 6, pp. 26-7 & Reader, pp. 342-43)

We can consider her poem as a covert rebellion against the government’s cruelty. She said: “I stand as witness to the common lot/ survivor of that time, that place”. In these lines she is rebelling, confessing and stating that everybody died and she is the only one who stayed a life and the only observer to the regime’s oppression and brutally at that time. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1937-8 was controlled by the tyranny Nikolai Yezhov. His time was known by Yezhov terror. He put many people in “Leningrad prison”. Everybody was afraid of talking loudly they usually whisper because there were spies everywhere. “Now she started out of the torpor common to us all and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there)” Furthermore, in the Dedication section Akhmatova said: ” Such grief might make the mountains stoop/ reverse the waters where they flow/ but cannot burst these ponderous bolts/ that block us from the prison cells/ crowded with mortal woe”. These lines convey a type of rebellion to the utmost suffer, harsh, grief and depression that Stalin’s regime was exercising over people. She rebels against all these pains. She tells us that this sort of sorrow and woe can make the mountains bend, make the water run in the opposite direction, but unfortunately can’t explode the heavy lock that is blocking all sad people behind prison’s bars. (Poetry & Drama, p.26 & Encyclopediaofukraine)

Additionally, despite of all these distress and torturing, we didn’t care; nevertheless, we rebelled and stood together as allies because we have the same fear. “for some the wind can freshly blow/ for some the sunlight fade at ease/ but we made partners in our dread”. In the Prologue part, she overtly rebels against the Soviet authority; “Like the wives of Peter’s troopers in Red Square/ I’ll stand and howl under the Kremlin towers.” She is saying that she is going to rebel and bawl by all her efforts in order to resemble the wives of an important armor who rose up in rebellion against Peter the Great in 1698, and most were either executed or exiled. like In the The Sentence section, Akhmatova’s way in saying; “the word dropped like a stone/ on my still living breast/…/so much to do today/ kill memory, kill pain/ turn heart into a stone/ and yet prepare to live again.” As if one rebels and rejects to keep silent and accept more pain. She said that she wants to forget harsh events and she does not want to feel any hurt. She is acting as a rebellious person who clams that in order to prepare “herself to live again”; she has to turn her heart into a stone (metaphor of feelingless and cruel). Not only that, also, the way she uses the simile between the “word” and “stone” makes the reader feels the heavy weight of the utterance “word” as alike to “stone”. (Poetry & Drama, pp.26-29)

Joseph Brodsky in his critical essay called Akhmatova The Keening Muse, means “the weeping muse”. Brodsky said that Akhmatova has the ability of portraying “a tragic world view.” He said that regardless of what she suffers in her life similar to many sufferers of Stalinist oppression, her tragic vision is, “much more restrained and focused”. He stated that Akhmatova was “completely torn up” as a human being. However, as a poet, she still has the capability to “obey specific aesthetic requirements, which impose certain bonds on her. When the poet cannot allow himself to rant and rave, regardless of what is happening to him.” He means that despite all the suffering that she went through nothing changes or stops her from writing her beautiful poetries. Moreover, Brodsky said that there is a particular time, in which poetry would be the only and the best genre that deals with reality. (Reader, pp. 340-43 & Allen, website)

Now let us move to explore how rebel and rebellion are depicted by R. K. Narayan in his novel The Painter of Signs. The writer introduces us to modern Indian character Daisy, who shows a great rebellion attitude toward the old Indian customs and refuses the notions of the main role of a woman, is to be a good wife, stays at home and cares for her spouse and children. Daisy ran away from her family when they tried to force her to get married and she rebels against anything that she was asked to do. “My mother called me one day into a side room and told me to be prepared t be inspected by a prospective bridegroom. They had shock at home when I told my people that I’d not allow anyone to inspect me as a bride and that I’d rather do the inspection of the groom!…she said “I had other aims. I said that I would like to work, rather than be a wife.”…”she left when made her life impossible.”(Novel, pp. 102, 121)

Moreover, she told Raman that she hates the housekeeping and she dislikes staying at home. “During their evening discussion, she had quite often remarked, “You will be as much a housekeeper as I’ll be. What does that term mean anyway? It makes no sense to me. I don’t like all this obsession with a house and the keeping of it.” Additionally, “A home, in Daisy’s view, was only a retreat from sun and rain, and for sleeping, washing, and depositing one’s trunk”. At the end she refuses to marry Raman. “Married life is not for me.” (Novel, pp. 130, 139) By this way Daisy can be considered as a clear example of a rebellious figure.

It is worth mentioning that all these writers belong to the new writings’ era. Their writing contributes to “redefine the literary canon”. The reason behind that is older “literary canon” was allowed only to British white males. But this idea has changed after the end of the British Empire. The appearance of new types of writing by different people from different nationalities (not British), the use of new styles, new techniques, and the writings by women and by different races all these factors played an essential role in redefining the canon. (Block 5, pp. 1-2)

To sum up, if we look back and revise each figure aside, we will find that each one of them has rebelled against something different and for satisfied various needs. We can see that Nichols overtly rebels against the Whiteman’s discriminations and unfairness treatments. Her rebellion was to satisfy two things; “racism” and “sexism”. Akhmatova’s rebellion defers from Nichols. She rebels covertly against the Soviet government tyranny. Also, she is a mother and a wife, who’s rebelling, is for all mothers, women, and wives not only for herself. Daisy’s case is totally different. She rebels against her own traditions and customs. She gives the reader a feeling, as if she is rebelling against her own sex. She does not want to be under a male’s authority.

I think no matter women rebel or reject nothing is going to change. We are in the twenty first centuries and many communities still treat the woman as inferior to man and her natural place is home.

Word count, 2189

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