Summary Of Laura Hapke's Beyond Desire

1386 Words6 Pages
The first historians of the Great Depression treated the period as if the experiences of white men were the whole story, but in recent years, scholars of social and women's history have begun to explore the experiences of African Americans, Hispanics, women, and even children during this economic cataclysm. Now literary scholar Laura Hapke has enriched our understanding of women's experiences during the Great Depression with Daughters of the Great Depression: Women, Work, and Fiction in the American 1930s. Examining a wide range of popular fiction produced during the 1930s, Hapke looks at the literary and cultural depictions of homemakers and wage-earning women. She looks at the works of radical and leftist writers as well as generally read…show more content…
The male writers' Gastonia novels provide a dramatic contrast. Sherwood Anderson's Gastonia novel, Beyond Desire, depicts strikers as united in class solidarity with no gender concerns. Most of the striking women were portrayed as highly emotional single women when, in reality, most of the women workers at Gastonia were married. William Rollins' The Shadow Before completely ignores the contributions of women strikers. As Hapke concludes, in Gastonia fiction, as in the strike itself, women are visible but invisible, "Shunted to the margins of the 'main' narrative, the history of a male strike...the heroines of Gastonia share the literary fate of their striking sisters throughout the nation" (p. 177). Just as journalists and union leaders erased the contributions of women strikers, so did fiction…show more content…
She notes that the novel was in many ways an allegory set in an earlier era when society's traditions had been shattered and gender roles and expectations turned upside down--just as they were in the Great Depression. But Hapke argues that the novel's meaning is deeper than this: it is an attempt "to meld old and new womanhood." She notes that Scarlett O'Hara's work in the public realm is initially acceptable; women could oversee the plantation while all the men are off to war. Yet Scarlett takes advantage of the upsets in separate spheres ideology created by the war. Hapke concludes that the radical Scarlett is the Scarlett of the last half of the novel, the ambitious woman who weds a man in order to control his lumber business. I found this reading intriguing if not entirely convincing, and Hapke herself concedes that, in the end, Margaret Mitchell gave in to the conventions of her day by branding Scarlett immoral and punishing her for her ambition with community scorn and personal

    More about Summary Of Laura Hapke's Beyond Desire

      Open Document