"Is She Going to Die or Survive with Her Baby?": The Aftermath of Illegitimate Pregnancies in the Twentieth Century American Novels

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This dissertation is mainly based on the reading of three American novels to explore how female characters deal with their illegitimate pregnancies and how their solutions re-shape their futures and affect their inner growth. Chapter 1 discusses Dorinda Oakley's premarital pregnancy in Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground and draws the circle of limits from Barbara Welter's "four cardinal virtues" (purity, submissiveness, domesticity, and piety) which connect to the analogous female roles (daughter, sister, wife, and mother). Dorinda's childless survival reconstructs a typical household from her domination and absence of maternity. Chapter 2 examines Ántonia Shimerda's struggles and endurance in My Ántonia ... continued below

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Liu, Li-Hsion August 2006.

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  • Liu, Li-Hsion

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Description

This dissertation is mainly based on the reading of three American novels to explore how female characters deal with their illegitimate pregnancies and how their solutions re-shape their futures and affect their inner growth. Chapter 1 discusses Dorinda Oakley's premarital pregnancy in Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground and draws the circle of limits from Barbara Welter's "four cardinal virtues" (purity, submissiveness, domesticity, and piety) which connect to the analogous female roles (daughter, sister, wife, and mother). Dorinda's childless survival reconstructs a typical household from her domination and absence of maternity. Chapter 2 examines Ántonia Shimerda's struggles and endurance in My Ántonia by Willa Cather before and after Ántonia gives birth to a premarital daughter. Ántonia devotes herself to being a caring mother and to looking after a big family although her marriage is also friendship-centered. Chapter 3 adopts a different approach to analyze Charlotte Rittenmeyer's extramarital pregnancy in The Wild Palms by William Faulkner. As opposed to Dorinda and Ántonia who re-enter domesticity to survive, Charlotte runs out on her family and dies of a botched abortion. To help explain the aftermath of illicit pregnancies, I extend or shorten John Duvall's formula of female role mutations: "virgin>sexually active (called whore)>wife" to examine the riddles of female survival and demise. The overall argument suggests that one way or another, nature, society, and family are involved in illegitimately pregnant women's lives, and the more socially compliant a pregnant woman becomes after her transgression, the better chance she can survive with her baby.

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  • August 2006

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  • May 5, 2008, 2:52 p.m.

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  • Jan. 21, 2014, 2:37 p.m.

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Liu, Li-Hsion. "Is She Going to Die or Survive with Her Baby?": The Aftermath of Illegitimate Pregnancies in the Twentieth Century American Novels, dissertation, August 2006; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5316/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .