Emile Zola and Kate Chopin both present texts that depict the fall of a heroine. Nana and Edna Pontellier Naturalistically represent archetypal women of the late 19th century; Nana, as a courtesan, represents the rising lower class, and Edna representing the upper-middle class. Despite the cultural gap between Nana and Edna, their archetypal nature assures that the fundamental aspects of the texts that they appear in follow the formulaic representation of the “Other.” They are outcast women of the 19th century in pursuit of the financial and the personal – that is, they both desire independence from dominance, and the means to do so.
[...] Otherness is described as the reference of oneself with another, it is shown that beyond the internal struggles that Nana and Edna exhibit, there is also another Other; beyond the Otherness of Nana and Edna, and the Otherness Reisz and D'Anglars, Nana and Edna position themselves in reference to men, and so these men become the “other Others” of Nana and Edna. As stated before, Edna is unable to remove the masculine influence on her will, which ends up being her defeat. [...]
[...] An is a person engaging in the reflexive act of defining their identity by another person, where the Other becomes Other as half of a Self/Other dichotomy distinguishing one person from another.” (Van Pelt Nana and Edna become Others because they test the limits of social decorum. It could be said that all characters in the texts define themselves by some other person; however, Nana and Edna define themselves in a matter that prohibits cohesiveness in their socialization. Other characters in the text rely on maintaining decorum, where as Nana and Edna defy decorum. [...]
[...] The narrative shifts toward Mignon as the Nana and the group leave the estate - “'There's an example of what good management can do,' Mignon said in a tone of conviction, looking at his sons as though to give them a lesson.” (Zola 169) in order to shift focus to how D'Anglars achieved her status and wealth. The lesson that is given by D'Anglars is not for Mignon's sons; it is for Nana, given that Mignon's sons could learn little from an ex- courtesan concerning management, and that Nana is the person who would benefit most from lessons on management. [...]
[...] This juxtaposition shows that Nana certainly has the capability for careful management, but simply chooses financial excess in lieu of financial prudence. Edna's encounter with her Other is more subtle, without a single definitive instance where the entirety of the Other's influence is perceived. Madamoiselle Reisz, as Edna's Other, attempts to aide in Edna's recognition of social parameters throughout the text. Reisz understands the effect of Chopin's Impromptu has on Edna, stating that she is only one worth playing (Chopin 30) after ignoring all applause from the other guests. [...]
[...] Reisz and D'Anglars successfully remove themselves from these social forces, and thus can be described as “awakened.” The position of being an Other is shown to be a contaminant of sorts; both Nana and Edna become “infected” by an illness that leads to their eventual death. Both Zola and Chopin infect their heroines with an illness appropriate to their respective heroines' struggles against social forces; Nana contracts Small pox and Edna becomes “mentally ill.” The narrative of Nana shows Nana and being entirely self-centered, being both a conspicuous consumer and an object of desire. [...]
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