6 pages/≈1650 words
Literature & Language
Feminism Interpretation of Gregory Maguire’s wicked (Book Review Sample)
Gregory Maguire challenges this binary conception of evil by arguing that there is no obvious difference between what it means to be good or evil in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. In order to argue that what society considers to be good might actually be wicked and that what it condemns as evil may actually have moral elements, she contrasts this viewpoint with gender relations in society. source..
Name Instructor Subject Date Feminism Interpretation of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Evil is collectively condemned in all societies and cultures as it represents actions that violate social norms and cause harm to others. What society cannot collectively concur on, however, is the definition of what constitutes and evil act, and what passes as a morally justifiable act. A good example is the issue of terrorism; viewed from the terrorist’s point of view, terrorism is a tool for resisting and retaliating against a more powerful oppressor. This view aptly captures the context of modern-day terrorism in which America is viewed as a powerful bully that can only be stopped through acts of terror. This conceptualization of terrorism is in stark contrast with common perceptions about the morality or lack of it in terrorist acts. Terrorists are viewed as insensitive murderers and criminals who should not only be condemned, but punished with death. In Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire turns this black-and-white conceptualization of evil upside down by advancing the idea that there is no clear distinction between what it means to be evil or good. She juxtaposes this view with gender relations in society to suggest that what society perceives as good can be evil, and what it condemns as evil might have a trace of morality in it. This essay applies feminist theory to examine gender relations and the understanding of evil in Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked. Feminist theory originated in the late and early 20th centuries as part of “sex wars” (Hemmings 116) in the western societies, where industrialization and economic growth increased women’s access to opportunities in different sectors. These wars often revolved around gender and power relations between men and women within the context of existing patriarchal social structure. The publication of feminist magazines such as Gloria Steim’s Ms creates a platform to advance issues that affected women (Gemberling 51). In later years, women writers used literature to criticize patriarchal ideologies that promoted the discrimination of women in society. In Wicked, Maguire confronts the question on whether one can be born evil, or they are made “evil” by social circumstances and forces beyond their control. The story opens with the character of Elphaba, a young innocent girl whose only blemish is being born with a green skin. Her skin condition sets her apart from the rest of the residents of Oz. As a result of her appearance, she experience discrimination, which is made worse by the endorsement of stereotyping and ethnic segregation by the great Wizard of Oz. Over time, Elphaba grows into a bitter and vengeful woman determined to destroy the social order that promotes discrimination against the weak in society. In the process, Elphaba becomes “evil” because she embraces violence as a means of correcting social injustices. This transformation of Elphaba from an innocent girl to a violent woman advances Maguire’s thesis that people are not born evil, but forced by circumstances and an unjust socio-political and economic system to be violent as a means of getting back at their oppressors and ensuring their own survival. The feminist undertones in the text are clear from the way the author portrays female characters as victims of social injustices (Okechukwu, et al 574), as well as society’s redeemers. Elphaba is condemned as evil because she is a woman who challenges a patriarchal society, yet the great wizard of Oz is not condemned despite promoting outright evil practices such as ethnic-based segregation between humans and animals. In the novel, there is a group of human known as the Munchkinlanders, who are considered superior than the talking Animals, of which ElPhaba is a member. This discrimination, according to Maguire, is the bigger evil that society should condemn and not the actions of those who resist the discrimination. This view can be interpreted as a veiled criticism of the practice of labeling resistance groups as rebels, gangs and insurgents, which imply that they are involved in evil actions. Maguire suggests that society should question the reasons that push certain groups in society to become insurgents and rebels. One explanation is that they are forced to rebel against unfair social structures that discriminate and marginalize minority groups. Accordingly, people like Elphaba who rebel against oppression are not evil or criminals, but resisters of bigger evils. The emperor Wizard of Oz’s dystopian dictatorship that promotes industrial modern architecture designed to restrict animals’ right to freedom of movement can be seen as a feminist criticism of patriarchal structures in society that limit women’s progress in education, politics, and corporate career s. in one of Doctor Dillamond’s classes, one of the human students wrote on a wall that “Animals should be seen, not heard” (Maguire 66). In this quote, the noun animal can be replaced with women in male-dominated societies or minority groups in multiracial societies. Thus, Maguire hints at the way women and minority groups are viewed in society as people to be seen and not heard. These attitudes, the author suggests, are the original evils that cause individuals who want to be heard- like terrorists- to resort to violence. In the context of the novel, Elphaba’s violent actions are justified morally because she is regarded as an inferior being who should be there to be seen and not heard. In this regard, rather than viewing civil disobedience and violence as evils to be condemned , Maguire sees them as the only tool left to oppressed groups to make their grievances heard. Maguire advances the feminist agenda in Wicked by developing male characters who are irresponsible, and female characters who are not only victims of male-domination, but are strong enough to resist and create their own space in a male-dominated society. For instance, Elphaba, Glinda and Nessa are strong characters able to compete with men in the world of magic. Even evil female characters such as Madame Morrible have the power to have their way, such as her ordering the killing of Doctor Dillamond, who was about to reveal scientific findings about the genetic relationship between animals and humans. Doctor Dillamond’s research findings indicate that humans and Animals are genetically similar, and therefore there is no basis for the discriminating against animals as inferior beings. While this portrayal is a condemnation of racial discrimination is society by suggesting that all people are the same under the skin, it also points to the humaneness of women and men. Accordingly, there is no basis for gender-based discrimination, which favors men over women. Even with this discrimination, however, Maguire weaves female characters of power and influence. This characterization promotes the feminist agenda that power, whether political or economic, is not the preserve of men. It is more interesting that in Wicked it is a woman who orders for the killing of a male character. Equally worth of noting is that Grommetik, Madame Morrible’s servant, is a male. The idea of a female having a male servant is a subversion of popular notions about the place of women in society and gender power relations between women and men. In many cultures, women are viewed as subordinates of...
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