The Feminists Critique is a type of literary criticism that critiques the language of literature by addressing political feminism and by using the feminist standards and beliefs. Feminism, to be specific, is a dogma promoting women’s rights as equal to men. David Lodge, an English author and literary critic, has dedicated an entire chapter to Feminist Paradigms in his book. In it, he relays some exceptional points of feminist literary criticism and its ideologies. The Feminist critique can be applied to the novel, written by Duong Thu Huong, Paradise of the Blind. This feminist novel reflects the author’s concern of women and their mistreatment in Vietnamese culture.
Lodge addresses an observation made by feminist scholars. The observation is such that before the 1960’s, books written by male authors consisting male protagonists were the only books taught in schools. This forced the readers to think from a male point of view, some of which were even misogynist (Lodge 528). However, Paradise of the Blind is a book that is in variance with this phenomenon since a female author writes about a female protagonist, allowing readers to grasp the novel from a different perspective. Using feminism as a technique, the author enters the tradition dominated by men by emphasizing the importance of female presence.
Lodge continues his chapter by explaining the subject of feminism for the women’s movement during the 1960s and early 1970s. Feminism during the time period was mainly described as how patriarchy, or male dominance, “silenced women’s voices, distorted their lives, and treated their concerns as peripheral” (Lodge 527). In Paradise of the Blind, it can be seen that the male figures have left no choices for the females, forcing them to follow the orders. This has been demonstrated in multiple instances throughout the novel. One of which is when Chinh demands his sister, Que, to distance herself from her husband and his family. Que was unable to speak up for herself and take any action because her brother’s patriarchal mindset silenced her (Chapter 1). It is observed that Chinh is responsible for most of the difficulties that are among Hang and Que’s life. However, it can be argued that if it wasn’t for the patriarchy, Que could’ve raised her voice and stood up for herself, avoiding the dilemma.
Additionally, it can be implied that although the male figures are not present at times, they still exert influence. This is a symbol of the latent patriarchy that even the women uphold in the insistence on being loyal to their brothers. This is evident because the women are still controlled by their male relatives in the sense of their actions reflecting the men’s desires. For instance, Que is seen providing Chinh’s two sons food while starving her own daughter. The excellent word choice presented by Duong Thu Huong indicates the patriarchal mindset of the male characters in Vietnamese culture.
In communism, everyone is equal and communists are trying to deny the gender-based differences rather than affirming them. Hang is seen addressing Uncle Chin’s wife as Aunt Chinh (Chapter 6). In fact, the couple wore the same attire. Instead of the woman wearing a skirt, she was wearing a similar uniform as her husband: a shirt and a pair of pants. This unisex uniform clothing type is a part of communism. Even though they’re trying to be equal, they’re trying to make everyone like men; it’s a critique of communism. Feminism suggests that patriarchy can never talk about gender equality because it’s embedded in the mind. When talking about equality, women are brought up to the level of men. It’s based on bias already. This concept can be simply explained such that women are equal, but only when they come up to the level of men and only when men permit them. Feminist scholars have stated that gender is a cultural phenomenon since it reflects the natural differences, whether these differences are biological, psychological, or maybe even linguistic (Lodge 529).
Lastly, Lodge’s chapter on feminism insists an argument made by the essentialist feminists. These “essentialist feminists argued that when confronted with ethical issues, men think in terms of rights whereas women think in terms of responsibilities towards others.” This concept also supports the idea that psychological identity, which the cultural phenomenon has brought about in gender, may be more important than physical or biological (Lodge 530). Women’s responsibility towards other beings is demonstrated at the very beginning of the novel as Hang tells Madame Vera that she doesn’t have a choice but to go and visit her uncle, simply because he’s her uncle and she has some responsibility towards him. Despite all the differences rifted between them, Hang is still willing to go and check on him because of the kinship (Chapter 1). In contrast, the idea that men think in terms of rights when confronted with ethical issues is shown as a relative who attended the funeral of Que and Chinh’s mother took Chinh to join Viet Bac, the anti French Resistance. In fact, later on, Chinh even joined the Liberation Army. Disregarding the fact that he has a sister that will be alone after their mother’s death and his departure, Chinh does not seem to have any issues with the recruitment, instead he seems to be interested in fighting for his rights (Chapter 1).
Overall, the points made by Lodge were reflected in Duong Thu Huong’s Paradise of the Blind. By reading and analyzing the novel through a feminist critique, the literary work gives the readers insight on the willingness of communists to eradicate gender barriers. However, when critiquing, it is observed that even promoting equality reflects patriarchy. When understanding the points made by Lodge, one can see that by writing this book, the author has exhibited her concern for women in Vietnamese culture.