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Finding a Woman’s Self Beyond the Housewifization: A Materialist Feminist Reading of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2011, 24(3), pp.227-249
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Kang, Hyeong-min 1

1건국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The idea of housewifization has evolved with the historical development of capitalism in order to justify and reinforce the sexual division of labor in the patriarchal capitalist mode of production. The sexual division of labor is meant to maximize the accumulation of capital by taking women’s labors and activities as mothers and housewives without payment. The historical development of sexual division of labor is closely linked with Western colonialism since the 16th century. In the beginning of housewifization, the European colonizers tried to domesticate their own women into the pure breeders of their next generation while they just exploited the colonized women’s labor forces without letting them have the opportunity of reproduction of their next generations. In Europe, the European colonizers created the patriarchal nuclear family and applied it to the propertied classes and eventually extended it to the working class in order to sustain a proper level of industrial reserve army. Unlike their women, since the European working class men had some material interests in the capitalist system and they could enjoy their dominant status in the family as the sole breadwinner, they accepted the bourgeois ideology of family and the system of housewifization, and enforced those on their women. However, since the main purpose of women’s housewifization is to exclude women from the public sector, all women’s work is undervalued or devalued. Thus, women’s housewifization has been the one of the main oppressors of women in the capitalist system. In Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, the two male characters--Rita’s husband Denny and her professor Frank in the Open University--try to make Rita just a housewife within their own class limits. Rather than help his wife become a full-fledged woman by finding her true self through her late education at the Open University, Denny forces her to be pregnant and thus to be a typical housewife as a working class woman. Unlike Denny, although Frank provides Rita with some academic helps that she longs for, Frank eventually also tries to keep Rita under his own control and influence by making her his own wife and thus making her a typical middle class housewife. However, Rita transcends these attempts and eventually uses her education in the Open University as the opportunity to find her true self and possibilities. Although the Open University education does not give her any real benefits, Rita, at the end of the play, becomes mature enough to cope with the harsh realities in her life as an independent chooser.

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