Date: December 2001
Creator: Coffelt, J. Roberta
Description: Drowning is a frequent mode of death for female literary characters because of the strong symbolic relationship between female sexuality and water. Drowning has long been a punishment for sexually transgressive women in literature. In the introduction, Chapter 1, I describe the drowning paradigm and analyze drowning scenes in several pre-twentieth century works to establish the tradition which twentieth-century women writers begin to transcend. In Chapter 2, I discuss three of Kate Chopin's works which include drownings, demonstrating her transition from traditional drowning themes in At Fault and “Desiree's Baby” to the drowning in The Awakening, which prefigures the survival of protagonists in later works. I discuss one of these in Chapter 3: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Although Janie must rely on her husband to save her from the flood, she survives, though her husband does not. In Chapter 4, I discuss two stories by Eudora Welty, “Moon Lake” and “The Wide Net.” In “Moon Lake,” Easter nearly drowns as a corollary to her adolescent sexual awakening. Although her resuscitation is a brutal simulation of a rape, Easter survives. “The Wide Net” is a comic story that winks at the drowning woman tradition, showing a young ...
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