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14 Seiten, Note: 2,7
1. Feminism and Its Influence on Literature
2. The Purpose and Features of a Fable
2.1 Definition of a Fable
2.2 The Use of an Animal as the Protagonist in Carmen Dog
3. Female Creatures Portrayed as Main Protagonists and Inferior Beings
3.1 Female Creatures Portrayed as Main Protagonists
3.1.1 Women Turning into Animals
3.1.2 Animals Turning into Women
3.2 Female Creatures Portrayed as Inferior Beings
3.2.1 Gender-based Role Allocation/Division of Work
3.2.2 Acceptance of the Transformation
3.2.3 The Scientific Perspective
3.2.4 Sexual Harassment and Abuse
4. Actual Incidents of Misogyny as presented in Carmen Dog
“First-wave feminism is that version of feminism that emphasises women’s social and political rights.” (Higgs 40) It “demanded that women have certain rights: to vote, to equal pay, to equality before law, and to divorce. […] Second-wave feminism examines the highly questionable assumption underlying male domination. […] Moreover, second-wave feminists have uncovered much credible historical evidence which suggests that women’s achievements in arts, maths and science have been systematically suppressed by men.” (40) The third wave of feminism “emerged in the 1990s” and “defines itself as a budding political movement with strong affiliations to second wave feminist theory and activism. Third wave feminism speaks to a generation of younger feminists – born in the 19060s and 1970s – who see their work founded on second wave principles [inequalities concerning sexuality, family and the work place], yet distinguished by a number of political and cultural differences.” (Barbon 156) Examples of feminist literature are Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, a critical analysis of the American society, and Virginia Woolf’s work A Room of One’s Own, in which she focusses on the limited or rather not even existing rights of female authors. (Cf. Temple n.pag.) While the first book is an analysis and the second one is an extended essay, Carol Emshwiller, an American author, comes up with another, different way of expressing feminist thoughts in written form in 1990 – a fable. How this kind of literary genre contributes to the display of the subject of feminism and how it is used in the purpose of Emshwiller’s ambiguous story-telling in Carmen Dog will be described and interpreted in this paper.
The New York Times describes Carmen Dog as an “inspired feminist fable”. (Emshwiller n.pag.) But in how far does the book actually follow the characteristics of a fable? Whether the classification of Carol Emshwiller’s work in this literary genre is justifiable or not, can only be assessed by taking a closer look at the traditional definition of the fable.
“The Fable partly agrees with, and partly differs from both of these [the Tale and the Parable]. It will contain, like the Tale, a short but real narrative; it will seek, like the Parable, to convey a hidden meaning, and that not so much by the use of language, as by the skillful introduction of fictitious characters; and yet unlike to either Tale or Parable, it will ever keep in view, as its high prerogative, and inseparable attribute, the great purpose of instruction, and will necessarily seek to inculcate some moral maxim, social duty, or political truth.” (Aesop 114) “The characters in a fable are animals or objects that come to life and act like humans. The same animals are used over and over in fables because they behave in a certain way. […] The animals’ behavior helps to tell the moral of the tale.” (Hardyman 5) “The stories show us how human beings behave well or badly. They show us our weaknesses, such as being greedy, lazy or too confident. The characters that behave badly lose out. This teaches us to behave well.” (8) Not only is the fabulist obliged to give advice, but also to “convey instruction”. (Aesop 114) Carol Emshwiller’s Carmon Dog fulfills most of the mentioned features of this text type. Instead of using animals like the fox or the lion both well-known for being the protagonists of fables, she creates mixtures of animals and women in the main roles. Thereby, Emshwiller stresses both the characteristics of certain animal species as well as some more or less stereotypical traits of female human beings. Furthermore, the focus is not only on the (not too) bad behavior of the animalistic characters, but on the men, who stay human, and the way they behave towards their transforming wives and pets. The moral could therefore be to treat both female human beings and beasts better and especially to consider women as equals.
Carmen Dog is different from other fables in so far as the protagonists are neither the typical animal species used in this kind of literary genre nor are they even real, pure animals. The connection to humans is not demonstrated implicitly, but very clearly, as Emshwiller discusses the transformation of either women to animals or female animals to women. A dog representing the main protagonist is an example for a rather untypical animal used in fables. Dogs are living side by side with people for a very long time and therefore it is not surprising that they are central in human fantasy. These animals are causing very opposing feelings to humans: on the one hand, they serve as protectors and friends; on the other hand, their sharp teeth are terrifying. All in all, the term ‘dog’ is mainly associated with negative subjects, as one, for example, sometimes feels sick as a dog or suffers like a dog. But still, lots of positive and worthwhile traits such as loyalty and sincerity are attributed to dogs. (Cf. ROYAL CANIN n.pag.) The main figure of the book is Pooch, who used to be a golden setter, unaware of sorrow and sadness. In terms of her transformation to a “fine young woman” with “slender fingers where her paws once were” (Emshwiller 6), the former animal changes into a serious human-like creature, but keeps some characteristics typical for a dog such as “big, golden-brown, color-blind eyes”, a half-open mouth (3), some rest of fur, “long silky ears, one golden; small feet; noble head” (7). What is interesting is that Pooch transfers the loyalty dogs are known for into her human existence, as her “feelings about sexuality and loyalty are decidedly old-fashioned” and if “she marries, one can be sure that she will never stray” (7). Though, not all animalistic behavior patterns are discontinued or adapted to being human. For example, Pooch sometimes “feels she’d like to grab hold of Cucumber [a transforming guinea pig] by the back of the neck and give her a good shake” (3).
The book is mainly about feminine characters both of human and animalistic kind. Though the attention is thereby drawn to the female share of population, these are not handled as if they were important or should be respected. How this ambiguous opinion concerning the existence of females is expressed in Carmen Dog will be discussed in the following.
“The Beast changes to a woman or the woman changes to a beast.” (Emshwiller 1) With this first sentence of the book Carmen Dog, the author quickly summarizes the situation the characters are in. Though this first dialogue is held by men, the protagonist is female. While men take over roles like the scientist or husband, women are turning into animals and female animals into women more or less completely. As it is difficult to distinguish between transforming women and transforming animals, the changing beings are called creatures.
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