By Lee Nan-hee
I had much interest in feminism or women’s studies at university and tried to read many books on the subject. For instance, I still remember that I read the famous “The Second Sex” by S. Beauvoir, “Wake Up, Women” by Lee Woo-jung, a novel titled “I Desire What is Inhibited to Me” by Yang Gui-ja, “Failure of a Half” by Lee Kyung-ja and “Impossible Marriage of Marxist Feminism and Socialist Feminism,” although I can’t remember who wrote it.
On top of these, I attempted to read as many books as possible regarding the social sciences such as “Capital,” as well as “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” by K. Marx and “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” by F. Engels.
In the class, Introduction to Sociology, I could enlarge my view on society, by learning about Durkheim, M. Weber and bureaucracy. In addition to this, I read some books on Christianity, studying synoptic gospels and co-relations between Marxism and Christianity.
In my early 20s, I was entering a whole new chapter in my life: freedom, equality and justice. In the meantime, I happened to find one photograph in the newspaper (that was mentioned in the previous essay). It was a photo of an old woman, who had dark gray wrinkles and skin, whose countenance showed some remorse. Its title was “The Rest of Life.”
I cut that photo from the newspaper and put it in my green-color student notebook. I must have made up my mind that I would never spend a day, even a moment of my life uselessly, in vain until I became an old woman like her. Have I kept my resolution? In retrospect, my days were, on the one hand, like evening shadows, fading out and withering away so quickly. On the other hand, they were full of thanks and courage.
I was very much impressed and touched by several lessons in English literature classes. I still remember vividly that I learned a lot about Mary Wollstonecraft from “The Norton Anthology of English Literature.” Wollstonecraft was the very first woman or feminist writer advocating for women’s rights in the 19th century. I was struck by her essays, which seemed to be full of insight and defiance.
But her life was not a rosy road at all. Her daughter was the famous female writer Mary Shelly, who wrote the well-known novel “Frankenstein.” It is evaluated as the very first science fiction story and it was made into movies several times. The novel Frankenstein is known to represent the miserable human conditions caused by the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Nonetheless, to me, that monster in the novel felt like the female author’s own circumstances in life.
In other words, Mary Shelly must have felt ambivalent emotions toward her own position as a female writer, at a time when it was still rare for a woman to write essays or novels. On top of this, she had to go through tragic events such as the deaths of her close family members. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft passed away eleven days after her birth. Mary Shelly fell in love with a married man, Percy Shelly and gave birth to a girl who then died quite soon. Her other two children died too and lastly, her lover Percy drowned in a boat in a storm.
Lee Nan-hee studied English in college and theology at Hanshin University.