- 国際文化論集 = INTERCULTURAL STUDIES (ISSN:09170219)
- no.15, pp.91-117, 1997-02-20
There is fairly general agreement that Sue Harrison's trilogy published from 1990 to 1994 is one of the literary fruits that multiculturalism has fostered. Harrison vividly and impressively represents the life and culture of the ancient Alute people, ancesters of Native Americans, based on her research and field work over many years, supported and stimulated by her own rich imagination. But it is not my present purpose to explore this area. My concern is in a feminist approach to this trilogy. Today's writers who try to create feminism-conscious stories confront much more sensitive and challenging problems than before. Liberal feminism originated from Europe in the 18th century. In the United States, in response to the civil rights movement in the 1960's, it developed into women's liberation movement in the 70's. However, with the permeation of multiculturalism in the 80's, propelled by the current of postmodernism, black feminists (womanists), lesbians and other minority groups' feminists have been criticizing the Caucasian/West/Judeo-Christian/middle-class/heterosexual-centerdness of liberal feminism. Nowadays feminists are expanding their argument into investigating the origins and structures of various discrimination systems, with and beyond the inquiry about how to reduce or end sexual discrimination. Some feminists fear that the present feminism agenda may neglect the problems peculiar to women and may result in delaying the dissolution of social unfaireness about women. Yet most feminists realize that it is one of their tactics, as well as one of their imperatives, to emphasize and promote their relationships and cooperative efforts with other discriminated groups. Thus contemporary writers must incorporate the above-mentioned feminist problems into their works if they want to satisfy feminist readers. We can safely state that Sue Harrison has achieved this challenge in writing Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind. This trilogy is classified as a traditional and popular happy-ending fiction for women, in which a young heroine finally attains happiness through a series of torturous experiments and disasters; in the end she gets her own special protector, in most cases, her husband. Harrison's books also end with the heroine's delightful marriage or long-waited reunion with their family. In addition to this, we should note that the setting is in the prehistoric era, from B. C. 7056 to 7023. This means that Harrison's fictions have the advantage of being completely invulnerable from feminist critics' attacks. Criticizing the sexual dichotomy in the prehistorical setting is useless. Because writers must represent the factual aspects of their subjects in their realistic novels, even if some descriptions are offensive to feminists. Above all it is unfair to reproach the defects of past ages from a contemporary view point. But we are mislead if we regard this trilogy as a mere prehistory Harlequin Romance. Interestingly Harrison's books can satisfy not only non-feminist readers but also feminist ones. A close reading of these three books leads us to find many devices and episodes to demistify and invalidate patriarchism. In authentically traditional fictions, heroines cannot be really happy without being bound to some patriarchal family ststem. Harrison's heroines, even though they finally return to their male-dominated families and communities, are clearly characterized by a self-independence, self-respect and aggressiveness that we rarely see in women in the fictions with today's setting. Under the disguise of an obviously gender-biased traditional story, Harrison has inserted some unforgettable gender-free characters, female and also male, into her fictions. Harrison succeeds in fictionizing her materials from the standpoints of multiculturalism and feminism which the literary critics in the present postmodern era are ready to find in new novels. At the same time, Harrison fulfills the contradictory desire of conservative readers, who are in the majority, to consume their familiar plots in unfamiliar sceneries.