The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Responses to a Patriarchal Society in Wide Sargasso Sea and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox 12th Grade

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006) by Maggie O’Farrell presents the powerlessness of women through Esme’s fate in the institution after her refusal to conform to married life, and also via Kitty’s expectations to become a wife and mother (and thus not pursue further education). O’Farrell also uses Iris as an example of a character in the modern day who challenges this when having sexual relationships with her stepbrother and a married man. In contrast, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys, perhaps driven by her own feminist agenda, presents female powerlessness in the context of the early 19th century, through the character of Antoinette, who is forced to marry an Englishman in order to be accepted by society. Rhys also contrasts her with Christophine, a black woman who lives alone and practises Obeah, a magic considered taboo. In both novels, patriarchal power controls all female characters in some respect, whether it is through money, marriage or freedom of expression.

Iris from The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and Christophine from Wide Sargasso Sea are both examples of women who, it can be argued, have some power within society due to their decisions to rebel; both characters are unconventional portrayals of women,...

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