Presenter Information

Taylor Hopkins

Abstract

The historical fiction novel The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd displays a notable relationship between feminist and racial ideals during the nineteenth century. The story is based on the historical figure, Sarah Grimké, an American abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights. Over the course of thirty-five years, the narration alternates between the two main characters: Sarah Grimké and Hetty Handful Grimké, a young slave on the Grimké plantation. The interactions between the two begin when Hetty is presented to Sarah as a personal waiting maid for Sarah’s eleventh birthday. As the story continues, the dynamics between the two characters shift as they learn how to coexist while constantly being faced with the societal and familial pressures that pit them against one another. These external pressures shape each character in their own ways of thinking and heavily influence their perception of freedom and feminism. This study explores the relationship between the critical ideas of racial equality and gender equality and their combined impact on Sarah and Hetty’s relationship within the novel. Additionally, this project examines barriers between the main characters and a theory that provides an understanding of the difficulty in creating and maintaining their relationship.

School

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Dr. Erin Speese

Submission Type

Poster

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Interracial Relations: History and Cultural Identity in The Invention of Wings

The historical fiction novel The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd displays a notable relationship between feminist and racial ideals during the nineteenth century. The story is based on the historical figure, Sarah Grimké, an American abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights. Over the course of thirty-five years, the narration alternates between the two main characters: Sarah Grimké and Hetty Handful Grimké, a young slave on the Grimké plantation. The interactions between the two begin when Hetty is presented to Sarah as a personal waiting maid for Sarah’s eleventh birthday. As the story continues, the dynamics between the two characters shift as they learn how to coexist while constantly being faced with the societal and familial pressures that pit them against one another. These external pressures shape each character in their own ways of thinking and heavily influence their perception of freedom and feminism. This study explores the relationship between the critical ideas of racial equality and gender equality and their combined impact on Sarah and Hetty’s relationship within the novel. Additionally, this project examines barriers between the main characters and a theory that provides an understanding of the difficulty in creating and maintaining their relationship.

 

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