PJAS 14 Spring-5

Alicja Piechucka
“We All Want to Be Seen”: The Male Gaze, the Female Gaze and the Act of Looking as Metaphor in Emma Cline’s The Girls
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 14 (Spring 2020), pp. 71-82

Abstract: Emma Cline’s 2016 novel The Girls, famously inspired by the Manson family and the murders committed by the group in 1969, is in fact a feminist bildungsroman. Its middle-aged protagonist-cum-narrator reflects not only on her own life and identity, but, most importantly perhaps, on what it means to grow up as a woman in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The present article centers on the ocular trope which Cline uses in her novel in order to showcase issues such as self-perception, self-worth and the shaping of young women’s identity. Focusing on the metaphorical dimensions of the act of looking, I propose to read Cline’s novel in light of Laura Mulvey’s seminal feminist theory of the male gaze and the opposite notion of the female gaze formulated by later feminist scholars. My analysis foregrounds those aspects of The Girls which make it a protest novel, denouncing the female condition in patriarchal societies and suggesting ways of opposing the objectification and indoctrination which lead to women being manipulated and victimized.

Keywords: Emma Cline, The Girls, Laura Mulvey, the male gaze, the female gaze, feminism, American novel

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.14/1/2020.05

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