The PianoThe Awakening of Women’s Subjectivity Alice, Christine, Claire, Denise, Julia, Rose, Tina
Outline • Main Argument • Plot Summary • Background Information i. Women’s status in 19th century ii. Family relationship iii. Comparison between Stewart & George • The Process of Ada’s Self & Social Change: i. piano daughter George ii. The Process of Awaking Subjectivity: the ending • Ada’s Overall Changes & Sacrifice • Conclusion
Main Argument • How to define Subjectivity? Freedom of choice • In “The Piano,” women are constrained by the patriarchal society. While in Ada’s case, her self-awareness awakens and finally she gets her subjectivity back and makes her own choice. • Is it possible?
Plot Summary • It is the mid-nineteenth century. • In an arranged marriage, Ada leaves Scotland, accompanied by her daughter, Flora, and her beloved piano.
She cannot adapt to new life in the forest of New Zealand, nor with her new husbandGeorge. • Stewart sells her piano to a neighbor, George. Ada suffers torment and loss.
By giving lessons and with other conditions attached, she earns back the piano. • However, she feels lost even more, since the relationship with George is the experience that she did not have ever. • At the same time, Stewart cannot bear it, so it happens horrible things. • In the end, she decides to choose the life she wants, and gets her own happiness.
Historical Background: Women’s status in 19th century • Victorian Women… • Had no choices i. obey to men, who held all the resources ii. remain single→ social disapproval & pity iii. no profession, most were in working class
2. Lived in inequality i. inferior to men very much ii. as his property iii. had no legal rights iv. received less education than boys v. the only purpose: marry & reproduce
3.Were firmly constrained: Women’s clothing symbolized their constricted lives. • All this was assured by law, church, custom, history, and approved of by society.
Family relationshipAbsent Fathers (1) • Ada’s father [Quote] Ada: Today he married me to a man I’ve not yet met. → Women as an object in 19th century.
Absent Fathers (2) • Flora’s father 1. Flora often apotheosized or created imagination about her father. ex. Her father song with Ada in forest and was struck by a great bolt of lightening. (18:15) 2. His absence intensifies the relationship between Flora and her mother. 3. After Flora had a new family, she gradually identified Steward as her father.
The Family of Steward, Ada, and Flora (1) • Husband-wife relationship • Steward came forward but Ada withdrew ex.Cold response to Steward and turning him down when he wanted to touch her. 2. Steward saw the sex scene of Ada and George (1:16:47) Raping her (1:22:00) was the only way he could get her body.
3. Chose to trust Ada betrayed chopped her finger [Quote] S: You pushed me too hard. You can’t send love to him. You cannot do that. Just…even thinking of it makes me very angry. I meant to love you. 4. Steward’s concept of capitalism leads to his fail of establishing a happy family. [Quote] S: We’re a family now. We all make sacrifices, and so will you! You will teach him. I will see it. (32:05)
The Family of Steward, Ada, and Flora (2) • Mother-daughter relationship • Intimacy separation 2. Process of separation: 1st separation— Flora wanted to see her mother but was refused. [Quote] F: I don’t want to be outside. I want to watch. A: No, you must calm down and play outside. 2nd separation— Flora didn’t let her follow her because she was going to George’s. [Quote] F: Blast and Damn! Bugger her! Bloody, bloody! Bugger her!
The Family of Steward, Ada, and Flora (3) • Father-daughter relationship • Refuse to accept this father. [Quote] (8:38) F: I’m not gonna call him papa. I’m not gonna call him anything. I’m not gonna even look at him. • Flora’s feeling of the appearance of father when she was punished to scrub the trunks. (1:04:15)
3. Identified with Steward, the father a. Start to call him papa. (1:23:16) b. Question her mother: [Quote] After seeing Steward locked them F: You shouldn’t have gone up there, should you? I don’t like it and nor does papa. c. Refuse her mother: [Quote] Ada wanted her to give a key to George F: No, we are not supposed to visit him. d. Thinking that father should be informed One the way to Goerge’s, she changed her direction to go to Steward.
George 1. live with the Maoris more straightness, wild, direct 2. Cares more about senses (touching, feeling…) Steward 1. A well-trained gentleman believes in and act with patriarchy 2. Focus a lot on possessions Comparison between Stewart & George
Steward—more civilized? The stage play : Bluebeard • The Maoris trying to stop Bluebeard from Killing his wife In the stage play • Steward punish Ada with a savage way (like Bluebeard)
Steward (after cutting off Ada’s finger): “I meant to love you. I clipped your wing, that’s all.” He wants to stop Ada from developing her subjectivity. He wants cut off the phallus and wants it back to his hand. George: standing naked in front of her Giving up the phallus (men are most powerless without clothes) Their actions & the meaning of them
George: her love “My mind has seized on ya and can think of nothin’ else. This is why I suffer. I’m sick with longing…” Steward: an obedient wife “You can’t go on like this. We are a family now. We all make sacrifices, and so will you!” What do they want from Ada?
The Process of Ada’s self & social change:Breaking through the restrains of patripotestalsociety • 1st stage: the Piano • 2nd stage: the daughter • 3rd stage:George One-sided (self- centered) Solitary, isolated, passive Mutual Active, passionate, act on her own
The first stage: the Piano • Piano’s function: release her emotion (one-sided) sense of security meaning: Ada’s Inner self “We can’t leave the piano!” “The piano is mine. It’s mine.” (written) “(The playing) Like a mood that passes into you. … A sound creep inside you…” “…(Ada) play a kitchen table like it was a piano.”
The first stage: the Piano (2) • Social Contact: Mute/silent to others, only reveals her feelings through the piano. “I don’t think myself silent, that is because of my piano.” closed, separated from society “Who’s bloody coffin is this?” “It’s a coffin, let the sea bury it.”
Growth On Both Sides • The process of the daughter’s awareness of separation with Ada as well as Ada’s own development imitates the process of Imaginary Symbolic • Lacan’s Oedipal Complex: “According to Lacan, the mother is characterized by 'lack' of a phallus. The pre-Oedipal child tries to make good the lack. But the mother desires the phallus that will cover over her division in language. The child then realizes its own lack, or 'castration' and seeks to speak or use words such that it can stand in for that which is missing….” (“Oedipus Complex”)
In other words… • The daughter tries to be Ada’s phallus, but fails because she is not a man. She becomes neglected while her mother is busy discovering herself. In the end the girl is forced to recognize the separation between mother and child. As Ada slowly discovers her subjectivity, the child is also pushed toward the route of independence and socialization. • Different identification of fathers led to destruction.
Parallel of mother & child’s development First: Mother & daughter as a symbiotic being • Mother & Daughter are always together, and cannot do without each other. • Example: Acts as mom’s literary communication to the outside world. Defense against intruders (or the Other): “I’m not going to call him papa, I’m not going to call him anything. I’m not even going to look at him”
Second: Separation • First partition: photo shoot (“I want to be in the photo”) • Second Partition: Being shut out of the hut Ada Forced to separate with daughter in order to earn back the piano Daughter Sense that the mother desires something beyond her, and so feels abandoned (Relate to dog)
Third: Physical Awareness(Having sex vs. watching sex) • Ada Acceleration of self discovery through physical means • Daughter Father steps in (different from Ada) Ex: Scold by Stewart for imitation of sex act (“you put shame on me, you put shame on these trunks”) Hints adultery to Stewart
Forth: Different routes • Ada Gaining subjectivity Ex: Confess love to George Deliberately cuts off from daughter recognize of her “other” through the mirror. • Daughter Confining to social norms & identification with father role Ex: Knowledge of mother’s affair “where’s your mother going?” “to hell!” Helps Stewart imprison mother, wear angel wings disapprove mother of adultery Tells on mother’s unfaithfulness to Stewart. “ I don’t know whether it’s a proper thing or not”.
In the end … • Stunned by the tragedy she provoked • Angel wings rinsed Returns from little devil back to little child (purification) • Accept George as the father Triangle formed • Still speaks of mother’s mind. Ex: tells George for mom to throw away the piano.
George-the only person that Ada can really communicate with. Interaction process: Trade(one black key per class) Body touch(neck, feet…) Sex relationship (totally connected without distance) George-A Man Who Inspires Ada’s Subjectivity goes to George again and shows her love reacts against Stewart Ada’s Subjectivity awakens George desire raises Ada unwilling George gives his phallus to Ada naked Ada’s desire raises restricted George falls in love with Ada Ada without protest splits with Flora
George Gives Ada right to choose and make decision the trade Observes Ada actively Ada’s arriving & her melodies. Wants to know what Ada thinks and says. when having sex. The Body Touch (sex) inspires Ada’s physical desire and need. to have deeper interaction with other people. George the key opens Ada’s heart, which replaces the piano in the end. In the interaction
The Ending • Ada’s throwing the piano into the sea A big decision: Put away her past. Give up her previous interact way with the world. Begin a new life.
Sinks herself into the sea (accidentally or intensively) Possible reason: Gets used to her previous living way. Afraid of this loss and new way of living Knows nothing about future Sink into the sea an action that shows her fear of change and her will. Ada’s will-her subjectivity. ∵Feels discontented with her situation. Her possibility to break it away. change her communication method and start new life with George. The Ending
The Ending • Decides to swim up and live a new life with George, and learn to speak in the end Balance between her aspiration and her fear to the unknown future
The Process of Awaking Ada’s Subjectivity Imaginary relation The unconscious
The Sinking Piano & the Silent Sea • The piano a part of Ada’s past. still lives in Ada’s unconscious (dream) • The sea her silent world. • The land (the boat) her new world. • “What a death, what a chance, what a surprise, had my will chosen life?”
Overall Change & Sacrifice • Ada’s Changes: 1.Clothing 2.Facial expression 3.Attitude toward the piano 4.Attitude toward physical touch with George 5. Subjectivity: from repressed (obedient) making her own decision.
Sacrifice • Sacrifice: 1.Her piano=part of herself 2.Her finger metal fingertip
Conclusion • Through Ada’s story, we get to see a woman who bravely makes her own choice and gets happiness. Though she sacrificed something in the process, she puts her subjectivity into practice in the end.
Works Cited • “Oedipal Complex”. ChangingMinds.org.http://changingminds.org/disciplines/psychoanalysis/concepts/oedipus_complex.htm • http://members.lycos.co.uk/HastingsHistory/19/overview.htm