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The Female Hero's Quest for Identity in Novels by Modern American Women Writers

The Function of Nature Imagery, Moments of Vision, and Dreams in the Hero's Development

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Irene Neher

Around the turn of the century, a new kind of woman - the «female hero» - begins to appear in American literature. This «new woman», portrayed, in particular, in novels by modern women writers, often realizes herself through an especially close relation to nature («naturism»), as the use of «nature imagery», «moments of vision», and «dreams» discloses. This relation between woman and nature is striking in its ambivalent, progressive-regressive function with regard to the female protagonist's development: there is a continuous tension between this new woman's striving for the «public world» and her regression into the «private sphere», between her wish for freedom and her need for love. Thus, the «new woman» in her quest for identity becomes a link between the traditional «heroine» and the contemporary female protagonist.
Contents: The Turn of the Century and the Modern Novel of Female Development - The Female Heroes' Relation to Nature - Nature Imagery, Moments of Vision, and Dreams in the Naturistic Modern Novel of Female Development - The Double Function of Naturism.