Saturday, November 14, 2015

Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (Part 3)

So I have somehow made it through yet another week! It's starting to look like I can complete the whole course, although I'm not sure how I'm even making the time to read the stuff...

Anyway, this week was a selection of stories from Hawthorne and Poe. I quite liked Poe, but I'm not sure if Hawthorne was for me. Still wrote on him though. Anyway, my essay:

The Mary Sue in Hawthorne

In fanfiction, the term Mary Sue pops up frequently. A Mary Sue is a female character who is unnaturally beautiful and talented, and everyone character in the story adores her. If she dies, it is in a heroic self-sacrifice that saves the entire universe, and everyone will mourn her. In this essay, I would like to consider if the female characters in Hawthorne's 'The Birthmark' and 'Rappaccini's Daughter' fit the stereotype of the Mary Sue.

In The Birthmark, Georgiana is considered perfect, except for one, superficial flaw. To me, this resembles the superficial flaw many Mary Sues often have (like clumsiness). In addition, Georgiana seems to be presented as the perfect, meek woman, which female readers might wish to aspire to. However, her ignoble death goes against the Mary Sue stereotype.

In Rappaccini's Daughter, Beatrice is blessed with beauty and the power to live among dangerous plants. She appears perfect, a trait of many Mary Sues. Yet for love, she's willing to divest herself of her powers, and eventually dies. Like Georgiana, her death is not a self-sacrifice, but is more of a total submission to the man that she has fallen in love with. In this way, her death goes against the Mary Sue stereotype.

The female characters in the above two stories are both presented as ideal women - meek and beautiful. In this aspect, they fit the Mary Sue ideal of the perfect female character. However, their ending prevents them from being classified as a Mary Sue, as their untimely and ignoble deaths negate the wish-fulfilment/self-insert function of the Mary Sue. Unless, of course, one wishes to be a tragic heroine. But that is not the norm in most fandoms.

Grade: 4

What I learnt: Someone commented I could have used more evidence in my essay, and I totally agree. Should have done that. But it seems like trying to be more focused was a good idea. Now, I'll have to find a new topic to write about - this week, we're reading stories by H.G. Wells. Still making my way through The Island of Dr. Moreau!

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