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The oppression of Victorian women and expressing feminist sentiment concerning hysteria in The Awakening in terms of the gothi

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Victorian women faced multi-faceted oppression by society. however, this was perceived as the only appropriate mode of life for them. Any woman, who dared to defy conventional norms by indulging in an illicit relation, expressed sensual desires, and mouthed discomfort against masochistic behaviours, was socially condemned and regarded as hysterical (Austin amp. Boyd, 2010, p.496). Utter disregard for womanly penchants and suppression of feminist sentiments produced negative impacts on female psyche which by the end of 19th century was understood as a medical disorder by the likes of Sigmund Freud. It was due to the efforts on Freud’s behalf and the literary masterpieces from the late 19th century that put forth the logic that hysteria was a natural phenomenon resulting from feelings of oppression and belittling of humanly yearnings (Sulloway, 1992, p.47). Feminism which before 19th century was largely encapsulated as the freedom to give birth and enjoy motherhood, was propagated as an urge for attaining social equality, privilege for preferred sensual orientation, and independence for selecting a way of life. Gothic literature primarily focused on enlightening people about the actuality of hysteria and the dislike towards biased moral/cultural norms was voiced strongly (Toohey, 2012, p.242). It expressed feminist sentiments and described the impact of stereotypical gender roles from a female’s perspective. Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) and Henry James The Turn of the Screw (1898), etc. displayed feminist sentiments concerning hysteria profoundly (Serafin amp. Bendixen, 2005, p.362). The Awakening, the centre of discussion here, displays a Victorian era society in Louisiana during 1899, and underlines tabooed themes of feminine biological desires and pursuance of self-identity through the protagonist Edna Pontellier. Revealing hysteria as a repercussion of pursuing self-identity in The Awakening: The Awakening is one of those few literary masterpieces that covered the theme of oppression and depression comprehensively. In this novel, forced social obligations and suppressed female emotions were shown as the cause of bringing them to the verge of insanity. It did not deal with any single aspect of oppression but provided an in-depth analysis of how feminist pursuance of self-identity and female individuality was totally crushed in a male-dominated society. Edna was not just searching for freedom to entertain her unfulfilled sensual urges that was an outcome of unhappy and excessively authoritative marital relation, but she wanted to gain freedom for self-discovery. Here it is important to pay attention to the fact the Victorian era men played a significant role in the outbreak of maddening behaviours among women. Danahay explains that in Victorian era, biased gender role distinction primarily on the biological basis was the most extreme form of segregation yet seen in an industrialised nation (2005, p.2). Women had no particular rights upon their body or mind whatsoever, hence. it was paramount that there was no acceptance for permissible sexual activities, and range of role choices