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Faculty: Alexandru-Ioan Cuza, Faculty of Letters

Section: English- Romanian
Title: Artistic motivation in terms of exploring the insecurity of feminine self in Bronwen
Wallace s An easy life
- definitions of formalistic and feminst approach
-counterpointing techniques used in An easy life
-examples of insecurity of feminine self from the text and analysis
-foreshadowing techniques used by Bronwen Wallace
W. L. Guerin, Earle Labor- A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, 1966/1992
Sara Mills- Feminist Stylistics, 1995
Bronwen Wallace- An easy life

Artistic motivation in terms of exploring the insecurity of feminine self
in Bronwen Wallace s An easy life

Bronwen Wallaces An easy life is a beautiful story of altered perceptions whose
attention to the detail communicates the clarity of vision washed with emotion that drugs
bring. In its work of fiction, Bronwen Wallace is not playing only with language but with life that
animates this short story and gives it power. Thats why we choose to analyse the short story
from two points of view: formalistic and and feminist approach.
As its name suggests, the object of formalistic criticism is to find the key to the
structure and meaning of the literary work- a key that inevitably reveals itself as necessary to
the experience of the work as an art form. This approach is based on the idea that, although
extra-literary considerations (such as the authors life, his times, and sociological phenomena)
may be interesting and sometimes quite helpful, the heart of the matter ought to be, quite
simply: What is the literary work, what are its shape and effect, and how do these come about?
In short, we search for the form, necessary for a real understanding of the work.
Feminism literary criticism is an ideologically committed type of criticism, engaged in the
issue of exposing the unequal treatment of women in patriarchal society as reflected in artistic
At a first sight we notice Bronwen Wallaces technique of counterpointing. In its most
general aspect, counterpoint involves the writing of musical lines that sound very different and
move independently from each other but sound harmonious when played simultaneously.
An easy life is a perfect example of the analogies that can emerge between two initially
divergent narratives: the easy life of Marion Walker and the life of Tracey Harper. In the end of
the short-story the two different existences appear to have a memory in common:
The breeze feels wonderful on her hot face. She wipes the sweat off her forehead with
the back of her hand as she steps out, and that for some reason makes her think of the days she
took Tracy Harper to the mall because she couldnt think of anything else to do and how theyd
tried on clothes and makeup in The Bay. Tracy wanted to do Marions face and she let her
though she never wears makeup. Now, she can feel Tracys fingertips again on her eyelids and
her cheeks. They stick slightly, pulling at her skin, as if Tracy is pressing too hard, exasperated
with something she sees there, something she cant erase or alter. And at the same time, they
flutter and soothe, almost as a lovers would.
In this paragraph is presented a combination of emotions, of anger and tenderness,
mixed feelings. In this way, through the use of an omniscient narrator, the author reveals the
insecurity of feminine self and the power of a simple memory. Both Marion and Tracy feel
uncomfortable because of their different life style and because of the inability of
comprehending their feelings.
Bronwen Wallaces easy-going idiolect is stamped by a colloquial manner (). What
she largely voices is the experience of memory in an attempt to shape out an elusive pattern for
life, a pattern enabling one at once to restore its lost intensity and to retrieve/redeem
experience from the neglect of time.() the private yet common features of human(fe-/male)
experience- fear and need for love- are getting explored so as to thematically foreground the
heroism of living, of loving and of self-/acceptance.
Marions feminine insecurity is presented by the author using flashback memories. Even
if people can see only the easy part of her life (The other thing they say is that she seems to
have a very easy life.) she wonders how it would have been if she had had another life:
Of course, Marion and Carl argue, who doesnt. And sometimes they both wonder
what it would have been like if theyd waited a while, met other people, maybe travelled a
little, if they hadnt been, well, so young. On the other hand, they also believe you have to go
with whats happening at the time. Surprising at it may seem this attitude still works for them.
She may seem happy about her life but she tries to convince herself that her friends are wrong
when they suggest her to wake up, using different examples:
Oh, Marion, her friends reply, only half-laughing. Wake up. Look around. The sixties
are over.
Marion knows that theyre getting at, of course. For every Marion Walker, married at
eighteen and having three kids bang, bang, bang, who ends up cleaning her spacious kitchen in
her tasteful house on her tasteful street, a little stoned and more beautiful than she was twenty
years ago, there are thousands of others with their teeth rotten and their bodies gone to flab
on Kraft Dinner and Wonder Bread, up to their eyeballs in shit. Women whose husbands left
them (as, in fact, Marions own brother, Jeff, left his first wife, Sandra, with a three year old and
a set of twins, with no degree because shed worked to put him through med school and with
support payments based on his last year as a resident rather than his present salary as a
pediatrician), or, worse yet, women whose husbands are still around, taking it out on them,
women who are beaten, whose kids end up in jail or ruined by drugs or
Another example of insecurity of feminine self is presented in the case of Tracey. She is
confused and weak. The male figure in her life (Kevin, her boyfriend) has control over her
existence and she doesnt have the strength to resist it:
Already, shes thinking she might tell Kevin she doesnt want to go out tonight, though
its hard to imagine having the nerve to actually say that to him. Right now, its just sort of
there, like a buzzy place, inside her head. Right now, shes just going to eat her supper and
study for her math exam. Then shell see.
Tracy, like her guidance counselor, has contradictory feelings; she wants to be free, to have a
life of her own, to be independent, to go away from her violent boyfriend but at the same time
she needs him like a patch for her wounds. Marion, on the other hand, feels that her children
are driving her crazy. The narrator uses the same words to describe both Marion and Tracys
conflicting feelings about children, respectively boyfriend: bang, bang, bang.
Foreshadowing is another technique used in An easy life which enhances the
inevitability of action, usually without destroying suspense and tension. The author prefers
several forms of foreshadowing, such as foreshadowing in description which expresses a mood
as appropriate to the action(tension): bang, bang, bang, ringing and ringing and ringing;
foreshadowing in parallelism where circumstances of plot are paralleled either by a similar
subplot or simply by reference to similar cases( Marion and Tracys life). The result is both
symmetry and universality of theme, and hence credibility; foreshadowing in chronological
inversion or flashback techniques.
Anger and tenderness, those are the feelings that are fighting in both Tracey and
Marions soul:
Anger and tenderness. That she can feel so many conflicting things, that she can know
so little about anything she feels and still manage to appear a competent adult. Sometimes it
scares her. Knowing theres no end to feeling like this, ever.
They stick slightly, pulling at her skin, as if Tracy is pressing too hard, exasperated with
something she sees there, something she cant erase or alter. And at the same time, they flutter
and soothe, almost as a lovers would.
Anger and tenderness. From nowhere, Marion feels the tears start.
Bronwen Wallace interferes twice these emotions to underline the tension, the fear of
unknown, the fear of insecurity:
And so Marion just stands there, on her patio, with a cup of coffee in her hand, crying
like an idiot. Partly because of the song. Partly because its finally spring and shes a little
stoned. Because of her kids and her job. Because shes like that, Marion, soft and open, in her
easy life.
But not only because.
The antithesis between Marion and Tracy makes visible the fact that: Sometimes she
just doesn't know, and it scares her. In this statement, the author is speaking the voice of all
women, no matter their social status. It is made clear that the main theme of the short story is
of domesticity and possession, of fierce love and devotion on one end to dependence and
feeling trapped on the other. The work of fiction is a relationships emotional pendulum which
underlines the insecurity of feminine self.