"The Great Awakening" by Kate Chopin: Reply to Margo Jefferson's question -"Was Cathy Steinbeck's negative self image?".

Essay by JohnGoodmanHigh School, 11th grade March 2006

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Margo Jefferson, in responding to the question of rather Cathy represents Steinbeck's negative self image, gives three interesting points on the account of Cathy's characterization. She first states that the relationship of Adam and Cathy is based on the relationship of Steinbeck and his second wife Gwyn. Directly thereafter, she states that Cathy represents the "monster in all of us". Last, she concedes that in a way, Cathy is "what Steinbeck feared most about himself." I agree with Margo's reasoning that Cathy could be a combination of all three representations mentioned above; however, her theories on why Steinbeck created Cathy are some what confusing and debatable at best.

First, while reasonable that Cathy could represent Steinbeck's second ex-wife Gwyn, Jefferson gives no factual information in supporting the case. Most readers would think that whoever Cathy was based on must have been a cruel, cold, and crazy individual in the eyes of Steinbeck; however it is important to remember that he did indeed marry her.

Surprisingly, Jefferson still remains certain that for the most part, Cathy does indeed represent Gwyn, and that there is only "a piece" of what Steinbeck feared most about himself in Cathy. However, Jefferson's only reason why Cathy would represent Gwyn is based on her belief that the writing and inclusion of Cathy was a "sadomasochistic." This is perhaps the most perplexing and unclear statement of Jefferson's entire essay. As she directly thereafter states that she doesn't "think that he is simply punishing himself" and that instead "he is working through many emotions: obsession, rage, despair." Truly, anyone who knows the definition of sadomasochistic realizes how contradictory the word is to Jefferson's statements. For maybe Steinbeck was working through many emotions such as obsession, rage, and despair, I don't know, I wasn't there;...