Monday, June 8, 2015

Characters or Symbolism?

The connection between women and animals is distinct in literature and art in more ways than one. Although the idea of women's relationship with animals and nature that stems from creation tales such as Eve and the serpent exist consistently throughout history in literature, I've noticed another recurring theme in both women and animals of literature. Both non-human animals and women are often treated as symbols and plot devices more than actual characters. While a huge amount of female characters in literature fail to pass the Bechdel test and exist purely to further the depth of a male protagonist's character, animals are treated with similar disregard. In much the same way that readers will mourn a female character's demise only through a male character's grief and consequential growth, when we see mention of, say, a raven or crow, our first thought is of bad omens and upcoming conflict for our human heroes; sparing hardly a thought for the actual creature. Although subversion of this trend has been growing in popularity on the side of including strongly developed female characters (in the popularity of franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergence, etc), non-human characters (excluding mythological characters) have yet to become more than a means for symbolism and/or plot advancement. This trope, and how rarely it is noticed by readers, displays both the internalized misogyny and speciesism of modern society.

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