Feminism has been a societal movement since the sixties and as such its effect on Hollywood has received an enormous share from both literary and film critics. Movies, or Motion Pictures, as they were referred to in the early days, were understood by feminists as being a practice exemplifying stereotypes about women and womanliness, in addition to portraying men as macho and strong beings.
Over the years, a new form of literary criticism that focuses on the engenderment of Hollywood has been taking root and has come to be known as Gender or Feminist Criticism. This style of analysis examines the manner in which sexual identity affects the making and appreciation of literary pieces.
Studies on gender begun at the height of the feminist movement, at which time critics had started exploring the unattended areas focusing on gender in a piece of literature. Feminist scholars have been examining whether or not the gender of an author might affect their work. Critics have also been studying how descriptions of either gender have resonates in the populace and how it correlates with the existing norms in a given society, with respect to gender.
The 2001 movie, ‘Legally Blonde’ based on a book going by the same title. The main character is Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon. The main male character, Warner Huntington played by Matthew Davis, franks her. The movie is based on a common stereotype revolving around women with natural-blonde hair color. They are thought of as generally beautiful, but not very bright.
Hypothesis: the movie seeks to reevaluate the status of women in a patriarchal society and to dispel stereotypes unfriendly to Women
The movie seeks to dispel this stereotype by casting the main actress as a bright, able and high-achieving Harvard Law Student. The writer casts the character of Warner as a quintessential macho man, who looks down on women. Earlier in the film, he is cast as a snobbish intellectual who severs his relationship with Elle to focus on his career. His claim that Elle is not from the right family reeks of an outdated familial and societal discriminative stand, which sought to stratify the society, at the whims and of a few people.
This short story has its setting in a certain bar, whose location is beside a railway station. The author of the story uses mainly dialogue and symbolism as figures of speech. His use of these two stylistic devices is so effective that the story becomes quite interesting as well as informative to the readers.
When the story starts, a couple is seated at a table deliberating upon issues unknown to the audience. The couple is taking alcohol as they wait for the train. The wife looks disconnected as she keeps looking out over some hills and utters, “They are like white elephants”. The woman’s statement sets off an alarm in the reader’s mind. The woman’s comment and the title of the story arte both symbolic. If one is gets a white elephant for a gift, then they get quite a useless gift.
This may lead the reader to discern what the whole story is all about. As the couple continues to take the beer, the large gulps make one believe something must have been troubling them. As one reads ahead, he or she gets a clue to the problem the couple is facing. The husband says, “Do not fear. I knowmany people who have done it before”. He continues to retort, “If you do not want to you donot have to.
I would not force you to do it if you didnot want to. “. This makes the reader to know that, though the couple have a problem, the woman is totallyresponsible and has the right to decide. The couplethen engages in a lengthy discussion. The husbandthinksthat whatever they are discussing isthe most appropriate thing to do. However, he insists that he is not coercing her into doing this thing, if she does not want to. The wife on her part feels obliged to do what the husband is recommending, partly because she thinks the husband will be happy, and then he will love her. Again, this makes the reader form the opinion that the woman’s decisionmaychange theway the twolive forever.
As the narrative ends, the latter requests that they cease the talk. The man takes their load to the other side of the station to ensure it is on board, and then comes back to their table. On asking his wife whether she now feels better, the wife claims that there has been nothing wrong with her. Throughout this story, the duo does not reveal their problem. They fear saying it, believing that this would mean admission that there is a problem. They struggle making the decision whether to abort their unborn child or not.
The white elephants symbolize the abortion. Several centuries ago, people would offer white elephants for gifts. They were useless, unwanted gifts. The thought of abortion was a useless, unwanted gift to the couple. The man reassureshis wife that this problem is an easy one. From their conversation, the reader gets the feeling that the woman might want to keep the child, but she is ready to do anything for her husband; at least anything to keep the latter. This short story exhibits a lot of suspense, which makes extremely enjoyable. Ernest Hemingway allows the reader to keep thinking what the couple is arguing about. This gives the reader some insight to people who straincomprehending this short story. This work by Ernest Hemingway is in the simplest sense an act of rebellion in itself, that personifies the Americans’ unique character of always wanting or believing they ought to be perceived as brash, able to go beyond what others would consider personal setbacks, as well as self-sufficient.
Even one’s ability to detach oneself from their personal tragedy and see the act in an extremely humorous light is evident. The author is as simple as he is complex. He creates both uncomplicated and lucid images with theapparently elementary style. His complexity which resides within the characteristically eloquent prose, that displays a precision like no other, isclear only to the readers who are able to see beyond the facade. Hemingway paid sufficient attention tosmall details and a desire to portray his excruciating inner pain. He favored a simplistic approach in order to relay his view of women. This works to portray his obvious empathy for the female characters, while their male counterparts as well as protagonists appear self-absorbed.
Importantly, one should note how Hemingway significant life uses dialogue virtually exclusively in order to portray a serious talk, in which a woman is just about to make quite a significant decision. When other authors would set the stage while providing a backstory withemotion and motive cues of the characters as they intermingle, Hemingway makes the reader an eavesdropper. From the start of the story, the reader listens to the couple’s conversation as they drink outside the bar at the train station.
Just like any other eavesdropper who might finds him or herself getting tuned into other people’s conversation, Hemingway leaves the reader to discern the topic simply through listening as well as the occasional “peek” at the table as to what might be transpiring. Just like the elephant in the proverb, everyone sees, but does not want to acknowledge the existence of the problem. Not once does the dialogue disclose the tremendously serious subject matter which the couple is contemplating: abortion.
Though it has been quite a sore topic for decades and especially in the 1930s, control of birth has brought about heated debates in the United States. In fact, Margaret Sanger even livedin exile for years to avoid getting imprisoned. She eventually came back to the U.S. to continue the social reforms that would promotewomen’s right to control of births as well as the right to safe abortion. Abortion has been a criminal act till 2009 in most states. The illegality of this procedure is the likely reason the term “abortion” never got into public conversation.
There is also likelihood that the man is aware of the Sanger’s mantras, “all childrenought to be wanted children,” and uses it to convincehis wifereach this point. The reference to the “awfully simplified operation” that is “not quite an operation at all,” the husbandis failing acknowledge that the child is his child. Indeed, the references to the pregnancy are similar to those to the procedure: he simply calls both “it.” His lame attempt to patronize his wife implies he would is willing to get through with the baby.
The interchange not only reveals the American’s selfishness, but also the reflectiveness of the woman. Her statements such as the one referring to the hills as similar to elephants reveal she thinks more deeply about issues than the man, who takesthese serious matters superficially.
If direct speech alone is not sufficient to surmise the theme of the talk, Hemingway gives many clues in the symbolism. As the story ends the woman seems to have won him over from the preference of aborting, though the conclusion is left to the reader’s judgment.
Beegel, Susan Field. Hemingway’s Neglected Short Fiction: New Perspectives. London: University of Alabama Press, 2003.
Bloom, Professor Harold. Ernest Hemingway: Comprehensive Research and Study Guide. London: Infobase Publishing, 1999.
Lutherford, Bernard. An Analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2009.
Meshram, N.G. Fiction Of Ernest Hemingway. Washington: Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2002.
Watts, Richard James. The Pragmalinguistic Analysis of Narrative Texts: Narrative Co-operation in Charles Dicken’s ‘Hard Times’. London: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2001.