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261 The Inverse of Power Between Worlds
As we know and how seen through almost any text regarding cultural norms (particularly in Western culture), men have often dominated life both in everyday domesticity and through the narrative written on a page. However, The Female American puts a refreshing twist on this by inserting strong and dominant female characters. This isn’t only shocking due to the nature of most books written during the eighteenth century, but also due to the fact that these women, protagonist included, are not white. Interestingly enough, however, the idea of what female power looks like amongst Native American culture compared to European culture are not kept separate in the narrative. They become intricately woven together and actually impact one another when the discrepancy in these two cultures causes characters to clash. A particularly notable instance is when Alluca has been rejected in her proposal to Mr. Winkfield as it reads:
“However menacing [Alluca’s] words were, my father was not greatly alarmed, as they were uttered by an unarmed woman, and which he conceived to be only the effect of passion, and unluckily smiled” (52).
Now, we see here a major discrepancy regarding the understanding of female power. Alluca’s threat should have rightly made him fearful, but since she is a woman (and a woman of color in particular) and due to his preconceived notions of what being a woman means, he even smiles as he thinks of this whole matter as a joke. Unfortunately, we see this turns out not to be the case when Alluca not only poisons him immediately after, but is ultimately responsible for mother Unca’s death as revenge. This is one of the first upheavals we see in traditional gender roles in the text, as the sequence of events are driven by women in hopes (particularly for Alluca) of obtaining a desired man– much like how we have seen the timeless trope of men fighting to obtain a particular woman.
Like the title says though, there is an inverse of power that is also noted. More specifically, it becomes apparent in the latter half of the reading when the narrative begins to focus on Unca (the daughter) herself. While we see that she carries on the legacy of female autonomy, we also see that one of the major catalysts for the story occurs when the idea of feminine power clashes with that of standard European feminine power: When the captain abandons her on the island due to her refusal to marry anyone. While she has been able to reject proposals before, this event changes the narrative as it forces her into an entirely new circumstance both in plot and in debate about what feminine advocacy is, because this event was dictated by a man. More specifically, the event of her being abandoned was dictated by a white man who was punishing her for her refusal to submit to traditional European societal norms for women at the time. As the text progresses, hopefully we’ll get to see more insight on this narrative along with Unca rising above it!