Literature and Women
Attics do not house humans. Attics are wasted space. Women are considered half monsters, and they are wasted. She inhabits the attics, literally and metaphorically, she becomes a madwoman both as a writer and a character. The fact is, Nathaniel Hawthorne is male and men don’t glorify women.
Nathaniel Hawthorne did not directly say that Georgina is a monster. Only by the way she is presented in the story will it then becomes clear that literature had always been confined to male writers and characters. Georgina’s birthmark embodies the unforgivable flaws of the female body and her position as a woman. She doesn’t make any difference to Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. And the only way to kill the female monster is to destroy male literature.
Georgina is portrayed as a passive character overpowered by her own husband. Aylmer is a man of science who represents knowledge and inventions. Georgina is depicted as a woman who will do anything only to earn her husband’s love to fulfill her responsibility as a wife: to make her husband happy and be of service to him. Since a woman’s intellect is not for invention, she is merely placed in the house and practice domesticity. She even said to Aylmer, “I know not what may be the cost to both of us to get rid of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself.”
And so, the reader is introduced to the fact that women are trained by the society, which is patriarchal, to become submissive wives and submit to the idea that men are in control, not the ones being controlled. And so, there is this concept of achieving the “arts of pleasing men”. Even when she was about to die, she still tried to be the sweet angel that she should be. “My poor Aylmer,” she repeated, with a more human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!” And so, the idea of women being selfless is then highlighted in the story. The idea of women being submissive to their husbands is in fact very Christian. In literature, it is as if it must be a norm that the women characters are always the ones who must die and the protagonists must be the male characters.
Georgina’s birthmark signifies Aylmer’s insecurities. This reminds me of Freud’s castration complex in which the birthmark becomes the figure of a penis in the eyes of Aylmer and so he wants to remove the birthmark and have the power all by himself. In literature, male writers never considered writing as an act of women. It’s just that they are too afraid to let the women speak and inscribe power in sheets of paper. It is because of the fact that female authorship means female authority. And women, on the other hand, cannot get out of their shell considering the fact that she is a domesticated being and she has no right to invent and create a world that she can relate to. If she shows resistance, then she becomes a madwoman in her society. Only the men have the right to be a creator.
Georgina becomes Aylmer’s failure when she was born with the birthmark and when she died even if he was confident of his success. She remains to be Dr. Frankenstein’s monster that was created with stitches and flaws. She is an imperfect being.
Georgina is marked as unmarked. She continues to be a misunderstood being, like the other women, in her own society.
Georgina let herself be defined and is never aware that she is defined. A woman is marked as unmarked. The spectral of the woman’s marked body thus violates the fantasy of the woman as a blank page to be inscribed by man. The sign of the female body is cultural legibility and subordination, “staining” the female body, it literalizes the cultural marking of woman as the other. “It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions. The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest.”
Male writers only write for themselves. And so, women writers are the only ones who can write for women. To restate Audre Lorde, only the oppressed could understand oppression, not the oppressors. A female writer must get out of the glass coffin or sleep for a thousand years and wait for the prince to kiss her. We’ve been sleeping for more than a thousand years. Maybe its about to time to wake up and change the masculine literature.
It is clear how Gilbert and Gubar used the attic as a metaphor to emphasize how women writers are secluded and isolated from the world of literature. The attic is also a literal view of women who hide in such a space to write because writing is not a part of their domestic definition as women. They cannot even write the way they wanted to write themselves because of the fact that their husbands are always watching upon their shoulders. Most of them become mothers and they are meant to watch their children all her life, and so their desire to write gets lost along the way.
Georgina died. But then, the other women must not die too only because she is a flawed character and she is a WOMAN. I believe a woman must be dead for her to rise again. And this time, she will be immortal.
I’m a wannabe blogger who loves the 90s and Dr. Martens, an annoying mother and a jealous fan of A.M. Homes.