Essay on Motherhood in Women’s Literature

The development of the contemporary society is characterized by the growing impact of feminist movement which struggles for the equality of men and women. This struggle affects different spheres of life, including culture and art, in which literature plays an extremely important role. It is obvious that the contribution of women in literature is really great but they do not simply reveal their own vision of the world, its problems, complexity of human relations, etc. but they also use literature to show their unique female views and reveal the position of women in society to the extent that literature becomes a means of struggle for equality of men and women. This is why feminist and women literature is now particularly interesting for the research.

In this respect, it is worthy to note that, on analyzing women literature, Susan Rubin Suleiman in her “Writing and Motherhood” arrives to quite an interesting conclusion. According to the author, all women writing about motherhood are “clustered into two large groups: opposition and integration, motherhood as obstacle or source of conflict and motherhood as a link, as a source of connection to work and world” (Suleiman). Naturally, this statement may be quite arguable but still it is possible to use it for analysis of women literature, notably for Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” and Bessie Head’s “The Village Saint” which are focused on the problem of motherhood as one of the institutional problems of women and their position in traditional society.

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Speaking about Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”, it is necessary to point out that this work reveals a transformation, or even a kind of metamorphosis of a woman, a mother, which occurred in her life. In fact, this is the awakening of a woman who eventually has found a different life and who has realized that her set of values, her beliefs and morals could be totally wrong after the vacation on the vibrant Grand isle. In fact, this vacation of the main character, Edna along with her husband and two children really changes her life since the new world opens to her eyes, the world where she can be really free from prejudices of the world she has just left.

In fact, the main character cannot lead the life she used to lead before the vacation and, on analyzing her actions, her mood and thoughts, it is possible to conclude that she perfectly matches the opposition group of women, according to Suleiman’s classification. The main reason for such a conclusion is that in Edna’s case her motherhood makes her dependant on the conventional moral and ethical norms and she has to act in accordance to these norms. Nonetheless, she has changed and her motherhood and her position and her new vision of the reality comes into a profound conflict with the surrounding world. Obviously, she cannot afford anymore her traditional lifestyle and in such a situation this profound conflict makes her life practically unbearable. She strives for freedom from conventional limits caused by her familial status but she can hardly overcome them and really free herself to the extent that her family becomes a burden that prevents her from the life she really wants to enjoy.

As for Bessie Head’s Work, “The Village Saint” it is possible to estimate that the author also attempts to depict a woman belonging to the same group, according to the classification of Suleiman. At the same time, this work is a perfect illustration of the author’s feminist position which is clearly revealed in the depiction of the main characters and their actions. For instance, Bessie Head underlines that women, especially if they are mothers, should struggle against any kind discrimination but, nonetheless, the author clearly shows that, unfortunately, the real situation is far from ideal. As a result, the main female character, symbolizing women at large, is still discriminated and there are little equality between men and women in real life and motherhood may be even a kind of extra-burden which aggravates the position of women.

On the other hand, on analyzing “The Village Saint” it is also possible to estimate that the author tends to show that women should struggle for their rights and, in this respect, the motherhood may be a serious stimuli. For instance, it is possible to interpret the conflict between Mma-Mompati and Mary Pule over Mompati’s pay as the attempt to improve the position of the main character and, in such a way, motherhood serves to link the current position of women and their desire to improve the situation.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that motherhood , being an essential part of feminist movement for equality may be depicted differently in women literature but its main goal remains the same – to improve the deprived position of women.


1. Suleiman, S.R. Writing and Motherhood. New York: Random House, 2002.
2. Head, B. The Village Saint. New York: New Publishers, 2001.
3. Chopin, K. “The Awakening”, in Selected Works. Chicago: Routledge, 2000.